What You Need To Know:

The getaway driver in the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton received a sentence of 42 years this week. Kenneth Williams drove the vehicle, and Micheail Ward fired shots at the African American honor student and her friends in 2013 as they took cover from the rain in a park on Chicago’s southside. The group was mistaken for rival gang members. Ward was sentenced to 84 years in prison in 2019.

In her victim impact statement, Hadiya’s mother, Cleopatra Crowley, said her family feels that the now 28-year-old Williams was just as responsible for Hadiya’s death as Micheail Ward, the man who fired the fatal shots in January 2013.

“Kenneth Williams is equally responsible for the physical death of our daughter, the death of her dreams and the generational death of her children and grandchildren,” she said.

Williams was sentenced to 35 years in prison for his conviction on a charge of first-degree murder. That will be followed by a seven-year sentence on an aggravated battery conviction, which will be served consecutively.

In announcing the sentence Tuesday, Judge Kenworthy acknowledged that Williams had no prior criminal background before his arrest in this case and was under the age of 21 at the time of Pendleton’s murder.

But she also recognized that although Williams didn’t pull the trigger himself, he was a willing participant in the shooting.

Just one week before her murder, Hadiya Pendleton performed as a majorette in President Obama’s second inauguration parade in Washington, D.C. First Lady Michelle Obama returned to Chicago to attend Hadiya’s funeral. 

Why We Need to Know:
Hadiya Pendelton’s murder was highlighted in news reports nationwide. 
President Obama spoke about her in his State of the Union Address just a few weeks later as he pushed for tighter gun control. As noted by NBC News, Chicago continues to be entrenched in shootings and homicides. An NBC News analysis this month found that shootings have risen by 59 percent since the first half of 2019, the most recent comparable period since the pandemic began, while homicides so far this year have risen 33 percent compared to the same period in 2019. 

The loss of promising lives escalates daily, along with gang violence and more relaxed gun control laws.