Two men charged with the shooting death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton a mile from President Obama’s home in Chicago entered pleas of not guilty to multiple counts of first-degree murder Thursday.
Michael Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20, were arrested last month on the day of Pendleton’s funeral. Police believe the pair were looking for rival gang members when they fired at Pendleton and her friends, killing the young girl.
Ward was charged with 141 murder counts as a result of the shooting, an abnormally large number for a case involving a single victim. Williams is charged with another 17 counts, and both face 10 counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm, eight counts of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm and one of mob action.
The high number of charges likely stem from the large amount of media attention given to the case.
“I know prosecutors want to show they’re taking this case seriously,” attorney Jeff Granch, who is representing Ward, told the Associated Press, said. “But the 141 counts have the opposite result: Instead of looking professional and serious, they look silly and dumb.”
Chicago officials claim that Ward confessed to the Jan. 29 shooting, and prosecutors submitted a videotaped statement in which the teen acknowledged his presence at the crime scene and that Pendleton was not targeted. Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said that the shooting was in retaliation for a shooting that left Williams injured last year.
Pendleton was an honors student at King College Prep High, and participated in the Presidential inauguration ceremony with the school’s band just days before her death. First Lady Michelle Obama and other administration officials attended the young girl’s funeral.
Hadiya Pendleton has become one of the faces of associated with Chicago gun violence, as the city continues to combat its high homicide rate.