By Patrice Nkrumah
The man convicted of murdering a King College Prep honor roll student was sentenced to 84 years in prison by a Cook County judge January 14. Michaeil Ward, 24, who was convicted back in August of shooting into a group of people on a warm January day in 2013, killing Hadiya Pendleton and injuring two others, sat motionless as his sentence was read. The murder of Pendleton became a national story, as just days before, she and other members of the King dance team had performed during the President Obama Inauguration Parade.
The President faced criticism from many in the community who believed he had shunned Chicago’s problem with violence. In response, First Lady Michelle Obama made a personal appearance at Pendleton’s funeral and her parents became national advocates for tighter gun laws and antiviolence activists.
“People like this need to be off the street,” said Pendleton’s father Nate Pendleton, after the sentencing of Ward. “I’m happy today, but still hurt my daughter is no longer here.”
Ward, who also spoke during his hearing, said police and prosecutors have the wrong person. He claimed he did not do it and that this case was the reason people don’t like the police in Chicago.
“The next time a situation like this happens, you need to sit down with the family and show them the evidence. I didn’t even do it,” Ward said. “I am upset that I’m the one who’s going down for a murder that I didn’t commit. I can’t say that I feel remorseful about being in this situation. I can just say that I’m hurt.”
But Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney, Brian Holmes, called Ward a “sociopath” and the “face of Chicago’s senseless gun violence.” He said Ward was one of the individuals responsible for Pendleton’s murder when he shot into a group of King students who were sitting in a Bronzeville park enjoying the warm afternoon. Prosecutors alleged Ward thought the group were rival gang members.
Cleophus Cavin, Ward’s grandfather, said his grandson is innocent. He blames the Chicago Police Department for not thoroughly investigating the case. His grandson gave a videotaped confession 17 hours after he was arrested. He later recanted and said the confession was coerced.
Pendleton’s mother, Cleo said, “Hadiya is serving a death sentence handed down by Michaeil Ward. Who knows what my daughter could have been. Every breath he gets to take is one more breath than my 15-year-old daughter never got to take.”
Another man, Kenneth Williams, who was the getaway driver, was also convicted and is awaiting sentencing.