Judy Keen, USA TODAY
CHICAGO - The latest victim of gun violence on the embattled streets of Chicago is a high school majorette and volleyball player who last week was performing at events for President Obama's inauguration.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama said Wednesday they are praying for the family of Hadiya Pendleton, 15, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
"It's a terrible tragedy," Carney said. "We see it far too often."
Hadiya and some friends were gathered Tuesday afternoon at a park frequented by gangs near King College Prep, where Hadiya was a sophomore. Police say a group of 10 to 12 teens were huddled under a canopy during a storm when someone ran toward the group and opened fire.
A boy, 16, also was shot and was hospitalized in serious condition. The Chicago Tribune reports that most of the people in the park were gang members and that other kids in Hadiya's group were not cooperating with officers. Police say Pendleton does not have an arrest history and there's no indication she was part of a gang.
Community groups are offering a $11,000 reward for information leading to Hadiya's killer. Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said the gunman might have believed she and her friends were members of a rival gang.
Nathaniel Pendleton, the victim's father, was asked at a news conference Wednesday why it is so dangerous for the city's youth to hang out at parks in the afternoon. Pendleton said that such tragedies aren't "only happening in bad neighborhoods. It's happening in good neighborhoods. It's happening in the surburbs."
Hadiya's death is another tragedy for a city in a pitched battle with gangs and murder. Driven by gangs, drugs and guns, the city's 2012 murder count of 506 topped even New York City, which has three times the population of Chicago.
Chicago has had 42 homicides so far in 2013, the most at this point in a year since 2002, says police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Hadiya's parents Wednesday and later told reporters, "Nothing pains you more than calling a fellow parent, trying to comfort them."
Emanuel, a Democrat who is pressing for tougher gun laws, encouraged anyone with information about the murder to come forward.
"She had dreams," he said of Hadiya. "And this gang-banger, this punk, took that away."
Hadiya performed with other King College Prep students at inaugural events in Washington, D.C., last week. She was "a great, great wonderful young lady - a walking angel," says her adult cousin Shatira Wilks.
"She was very athletic, played a lot of sports," Wilks says. Her participation in the inauguration "was huge," she says, but not as big as her plans to go to Paris this summer.
"These kinds of things just happen in cities where the gun laws just need to be modified," Wilks says. "I think if people play a role in raising their children correctly, this kind of thing won't happen."