Pendleton killing suspects arraigned, plead not guilty

March 28, 2013 at 3:06 PM   |   Comments

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CHICAGO, March 28 (UPI) -- Two suspected street gang members charged with killing a 15-year-old Chicago honor student in January pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder charges.

Michael Ward, 18, the alleged gunman, is accused of fatally shooting cheerleader Hadiya Pendleton at a park about a mile from President Obama's Kenwood neighborhood home. He was indicted on 141 first-degree murder counts, the Chicago Tribune said.

The King College Prep High School sophomore was killed in Harsh Park on Jan. 29 just over a week after she performed with the school band during Obama's second inaugural festivities near Washington. The killing became a national symbol of urban gun violence and first lady Michelle Obama attended her funeral.

Kenneth Williams, 20, who allegedly drove the getaway car, was charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. Two other students were wounded in the incident.

The suspects are also charged with two counts of aggravated battery, 10 counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm and one count of mob action, the newspaper said.

Pendleton's mother, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, skipped their arraignment to attend President Obama's gun safety speech at the White House East Room Thursday morning to demand Congress pass a package of gun control measures.

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