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Teen, 15, Was 'Smiling, Making Jokes' Before She Was Killed

By Darryl Holliday | January 30, 2013 9:37pm

CHICAGO — A friend who was with Hadiya Pendleton Tuesday said the teen was "smiling, making jokes" moments before she was killed at a park that is a mile from President Barack Obama's home in Kenwood.

Then, as Hadiya, 15, lay on the ground after she was shot, she looked at her friend, who is also a student at King College Prep and who had gone with Hadiya to Obama's inauguration last week.

"She asked me if she got shot," the girl said Wednesday night. "And I said, 'Yes.' And she didn't say anything else."

The shooting, which has attracted national attention, occurred about 2:30 p.m. in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park, which is a few blocks from King. Hadiya, a sophomore, was fatally shot in the back, and student Lawrence Sellers, 17, was shot in the leg. Another victim suffered a graze wound and walked to a nearby hospital, police said.

 Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was fatally shot in the back in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park Tuesday. A friend said she was chatting with a group of friends about music before the gunman stepped out form an alley.
Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was fatally shot in the back in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park Tuesday. A friend said she was chatting with a group of friends about music before the gunman stepped out form an alley.
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A group of about a dozen friends were at the park after school had let out around 1 p.m. because of final exams, said the teen, who like Hadiya went with the school's marching band and dance squad to Washington D.C. last week

The girl said she normally would have been at band practice until 4:30 p.m. if not for finals, and she was waiting for a ride home from her mother.

"We were just hanging out because it was so nice outside," she said.

The unseasonably warm weather gave way to rain, and the group gathered under a canopy and talked about music. They were at the park for about 20 minutes total, she said.

Hadiya was "her normal self, smiling, making jokes," and was about to play a song from her cell phone, she said.

She didn't get the chance.

A gunman wearing a gray or blue light-colored hooded sweatshirt emerged from an alley and begin firing at the group, she said.

"I didn’t even think of trying to look at him because I was just trying to run," she said.

The group initially scattered, but then they all ran south together down Oakenwald.

"Hadiya starting stumbling and falling as she was running and we were trying to help her up," she said. "She couldn't hold herself up. She was like a ragdoll when she fell."

Lawrence, who was shot in the leg, sat down next to Hadiya. At least five students stayed by Hadiya's side, which contradicts an initial police statement from Tuesday night that said that no one in the group attempted to help her or stayed until authorities arrived.

"After she was on the ground, she looked at me, she asked me if she got shot. And I said, 'Yes.' And she didn't say anything else," she said. " ... I kept talking to her, to see if she would respond. Then she was just laying there."

Another friend called police, and an ambulance soon arrived.

The teen said a lot of rumors were swirling about the killing Wednesday. The police statement had initally said that preliminary information showed "most of the members of the group were gang members."

"That’s not true at all," she said. "Most of the people there were in the marching band, so none of us are gang-related." At least one other student there was a member of the volleyball team, as was Hadiya.

There was a student from another high school at the park that she didn't know, she said. That student later told her the gunman might have been after him.

On Wednesday, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said "every indication points to the fact that none of the individuals who were here and in the group were involved in any sort of criminal activity."

He said that police are searching for possibly two men who fled the scene in a white Nissan. He said he wasn't sure anyone in Hadiya's group had been specifically targeted.

The girl says now she realizes she is lucky to be alive.

"I know that I am, but I don't really feel it," she said. "I didn't even think about that until people started texting me, 'I'm glad you're OK.'"

A $11,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrest of Hadiya's killer. Anyone with information can call (312) 747-8382.