COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — The teen accused of shooting into the wrong crowd and gunning down Hadiya Pendleton wanted revenge on a rival gang and decided "everyone had to go," prosecutors alleged in court Tuesday.
Michael Ward confessed on videotape to shooting Hadiya and two others on Jan. 29 in a brazen afternoon ambush in Harsh Park that has sparked national outrage, prosecutors said.
But, after his arrest, Ward told investigators 15-year-old Hadiya had nothing to do with his gang beef, prosecutors said.
"She was just there," prosecutors said, quoting Ward.
The rival gang had killed one of Ward's friends and the gangs had been trading gunfire since 2010, prosecutors said.
"If we keep standing for this, we are going to be some straight bitches," Ward allegedly told police after his arrest.
"It hurt. It hurt to a point where everyone had to go."
Ward and Williams were charged late Monday in the murder of Hadiya, who died a week after attending President Barack Obama's inauguration with the King College Prep school band. The Obamas have invited Hadiya's parents to Tuesday night's State of the Union address. They will sit with the first lady.
Ward, of the 300 block of West 59th Street and Williams, of the 3900 block of South Lake Park Avenue were each charged with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.
Williams was the alleged getaway driver, driving a white Nissan owned by Ward's mother. Prosecutors said Ward did the shooting because Williams, who had been shot earlier this year, would be recognized when he went into the park.
Prosecutors said cell phone records put Williams near Harsh Park at the time of the shooting.
Ward's attorney, Jeffrey Granich, said his client deserves his day in court and claimed Ward had been "railroaded."
"This is a serious criminal case … this is not a political platform," Granich said after the hearing. "The problem when criminal cases get made in to political cases is rules are bent and mistakes are make."
He said no warrant was issued prior to Ward's arrest and claimed that Ward was held for 48 hours while police ignored his requests to speak with an attorney.
"One thing we believe is the victim in this case, Ms. Pendleton, believed in what this country was about," said Granich. "What this country is about is we don't railroad people. People are presumed innocent."
Prosecutors said Williams made statements implicating himself to a third party, a witness in the case.
But attorney Matthew McQuaid, who is representing Williams, said the 20-year-old man never confessed to any wrongdoing.
According to Granich, Ward is a student at Malcolm X College, where he is working toward his GED. Williams, who is a graduate of King College Prep, works for a courier service at O'Hare Airport, his attorney said.
The two tried to retaliate for a July shooting in which Williams was shot in the arm at 39th Street and South Lake Park Avenue, McCarthy said at a news conference Monday night. McCarthy said cops had made an arrest in that incident, but "Williams refused to prosecute."
Ward and Williams drove by Kenwood's Harsh Park in the white Nissan and saw the victims inside the playlot, which was in rival gang territory, prosecutors said. Hadiya was there with her friends after taking her final exams, and they sought shelter from the rain under a canopy.
The pair circled the block and parked the car in an alley near the park, prosecutors said. Prosecutors said Ward got out the car with a gun, while Williams stayed in the car.
Ward allegedly walked down the alley near the playlot, stopped at a corner and began shooting into the crowd still under the canopy.
As the group ran from gunfire, the bullets hit Hadiya in the back and wounded two others, prosecutors said. A 17-year-old was shot in the ankle, and another 17-year-old had a bullet graze his foot.
Ward fled down the alley and got back into the Nissan, and Williams drove away, prosecutors said.
The case appeared to go unsolved for about two weeks, until the day of Hadiya's funeral.
Hours after the service, McCarthy said cops caught up to Ward and Williams near 67th Street and Martin Luther King Drive. They were arrested and identified by witnesses, McCarthy said.
Police found the alleged killers, in part, because they'd already pulled one of them over just days before the murder.
Witnesses' description of the getaway car matched a white 2011 Nissan that police had pulled over in an unrelated traffic stop two days before Hadiya was killed, McCarthy said.
Though a reward of $40,000 was offered in the case, McCarthy said none of the tips the community gave them panned out.
State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, talking to reporters Tuesday after the bond hearing, said Hadiya and the two wounded young men were innocent kids who “clearly had no idea that they were about to be the targets of a senseless gang retaliation.”
Alvarez said Ward is a "perfect example" of why city law enforcement wants to create stronger gun laws. She said under current law, Ward was eligible for probation when he faced gun charges in 2011. She said her office asked for a stiffer sentence in that case.
“We need laws that serve as a strong deterrent to these gun-toting gang members who are creating all this violence on our streets," Alvarez said.
Court records show Ward was charged with at least one misdemeanor while on probation, but Ward was reportedly arrested three times.
When asked why Ward was not prosecuted in those instances, Alvarez said she had been told the county’s probation office was partially to blame for failing to notify the state’s attorney’s office.
But Alvarez also said when her office did prosecute Ward for violating his parole he was eventually let off because community members refused to come forward.
"If you look at those cases that he was picked up on, they were all dismissed eventually because why?” Alvarez asked. “Because the complaining witness didn't want to follow through.”
Alvarez said Pendleton’s murder says a lot about the state of affairs in Chicago, from existing gun laws to the so-called “no snitch” code.
"This case shows us so much,” Alvarez said. “It shows us the laws aren't strong enough. It also shows us when people don't come forward to the police or follow through on cases, that really creates kind of a ripple effect."
Alvarez said her office would be pushing for life in prison for Ward.
Responding to defense attorney’s claims that the two young men were denied lawyers, Alvarez said “everything is videotaped at the police station” and that assistant state’s attorneys review those tapes.
Ward's aunt Gina Ward said her nephew was trying to get his life together. She told him not to trust his "so-called" friends, she said.
"I hope he didn’t do that," Gina Ward said after her nephew was charged. "I don’t think he would do something like that. Not my nephew.”
For Hadiya's family, the charges were another step toward closure.
"We have been excited and relieved," Hadiya's aunt Kimiko Pettis said.
Hadiya's father, Nathaniel Pendleton, said the family would likely not feel closure until the men are convicted.
"That’s what will actually bring closure — knowing those guys are off the streets," he said. "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."
Geoff Ziezulewicz, Darryl Holliday and Mark Konkol contributed.