News of the tragic shooting death of a 15-year-old girl in Chicago reached as far as a Senate hearing on gun control laws and prompted a response from the White House on Wednesday.
Hadiya Pendleton, an honors student, volleyball player and majorette who performed for President Barack Obama during his inauguration activities at the nation's capitol last week, was gunned down around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday while standing in a park near the school where she was a sophomore in high school.
Hadiya had reportedly been taking shelter from the rain with a group of some 12 other teenagers when a man approached the crowd and opened fire, striking the girl in the back. She died at a nearby hospital less than an hour later, CBS News reports.
Police say Hadiya was not the intended target of the shooting. They have no suspects in her murder as of Wednesday afternoon.
The tragedy has attracted the attention of Washington. White House press secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday said that President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama's "thoughts and prayers" are with Hadiya's family.
"Well, it’s a terrible tragedy — anytime a young person is struck down with so much of their life ahead of them, and we see it far too often," Carney said Wednesday, according to the Washington Post.
In a Senate Judiciary Committee gun control hearing Wednesday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) brought up Hadiya's shooting death.
"A lot has been said about the city of Chicago and I want to say a few words too," Durbin said. "Our biggest problem in Chicago, according to Superintendent McCarthy who came to Chicago from New York, is we are awash in guns. The confiscation of guns per capita in Chicago is six times the number of New York City. We have guns everywhere and some believe the solution to this is more guns. I disagree."
Nathaniel Pendleton, Hadiya's father, urged Wednesday for witnesses to step up and help bring his daughter's shooter to justice. A $11,000 reward has been offered for information about the teen's slaying, the Chicago Tribune reports.
"This guy, whoever he was, the gunman, man, you took the light of my life," Pendelton said Wednesday, according to the Tribune. "Just look at yourself and just know that you took a bright person, an innocent person, a non-violent person."
On Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, too, reacted emotionally to Hadiya's tragedy -- and called whoever took her life "a punk" who took away her bright future.
"She is what is best in our city. A child going to school, who takes a final exam, who had just been to the inaugural," the mayor said, according to CBS Chicago. "If anybody has any information, you are not a snitch. You’re a citizen."
Classmates of Hadiya remember her as a "sweetheart" who was well liked, ABC Chicago reports. Her family called her a "walking angel." On Wednesday, a group of her friends released balloons into the air in her memory.
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy vowed Wednesday his department would "get this one done" and bring the teen's killer to justice, DNAinfo Chicago reports.
"Anybody who thinks this town belongs to a gang is wrong. We're going to make a point that this town belongs to the community," McCarthy said.
With 43 homicides reported as of Tuesday so far this month, Chicago is on track for its bloodiest start to a year since 2002.