CHICAGO — The father of slain teenager Hadiya Pendleton confirmed he and the girl's mother will attend the State of the Union address this week and told DNAinfo.com Chicago, "If I didn’t before, I definitely have a firm stance on gun control now."
Hadiya Pendleton's parents, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel Pendleton Sr., were invited to attend the president's Tuesday State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., family and a White House official said. They will join first lady Michelle Obama for the event, the official confirmed.
The 15-year-old had just performed at President Barack Obama's inauguration as a majorette dancer a week before she was shot not far from the president's Kenwood home. She was a sophomore at King College Prep and had just taken her final exams.
Hadiya's father said it was important for him to go to the address because the gun issue is a "national crisis." Obama is expected to speak about gun violence and firearm control.
"If I didn’t before, I definitely have a firm stance on gun control now," Pendleton said. "I would love to attend [the State of the Union] simply because these sort of crimes have to stop. When it spills over into the innocents it’s not a good thing. Then it becomes a national crisis. These kids are just trying to have fun and get ahead."
Hadiya's father said that though he still believes "guns don't kill people, people kill people," he added, "People that aren’t supposed to have them [guns] should not have them. There should be stiffer penalties nationwide."
She and her friends were taking shelter from the rain in Kenwood's Harsh Park after school on Jan. 29 when police said a man jumped a fence and fired on the group, striking her in the back and injuring two others.
Though Hadiya and her friends did not belong to gangs, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said the park might have been gang territory.
Though the case has gone unsolved for two weeks, police said Sunday that they were questioning two men in the case.
Hadiya's father said he wanted to reserve his comments until charges are filed.
"But even then, I’ll probably feel the same until they get convicted," Pendleton said. "That’s what will actually bring closure — knowing those guys are off the streets. I would love to know that these guys become poster children for criminals, that even the worst criminal won’t want to be who those guys are."