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Hadiya Pendleton: Slain girl had made PSA against gang violence

January 31, 2013|By Marisa Gerber

Not long after a fatal bullet pierced Hadiya Pendleton’s back, her round face -- its espresso eyes and easy smile -- had become a national symbol of innocence robbed. 

The slaying of the Chicago sophomore who had recently performed as a majorette at President Obama’s inauguration drew a senator’s demand for gun control, the president’s condolences and national hand-wringing over the violence that claimed the life of an innocent teenager in a park. 

Now a chilling echo from Hadiya’s past has surfaced: a public service announcement she made as a sixth-grader to denounce gang violence.

With a high-pitched voice and through a slight smile, Hadiya introduces herself and explains that the video aims to be “informational for you and your future children.”

Then, as the video cuts to an image of a boy slouched in a stairwell pretending to be injured, one of Hadiya’s classmates does a voiceover: “So many children in the world have died in gang violence … from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”  

The Digital Youth Network, the literacy program that helped produce the PSA, reposted the video and a statement Thursday:

“Hadiya shined her light on us here at the Digital Youth Network as a student, a learner and a creative voice.… Hadiya and her peers produced this PSA as a part of a project that sought to counter violence through youth produced media.”

Chicago police, who are still searching for the shooter they say mistook Hadiya and her friends for gang members, announced plans Thursday to move 200 officers from administrative desk jobs to patrols on the city streets.

In a joint news conference with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced his plan to target specific areas and saturate them with more officers.

“We have an obligation to act as quickly as possible,” McCarthy said, adding that several of the extra officers would start their street patrol this weekend.

Emanuel called the plan a good preventative step for Chicago. "Before a flame becomes a fire … put it out,” he said. But the mayor also called on Washington to advance legislation that would require a comprehensive background check for all gun buyers.

“If you stop a criminal from ever getting access to any type of gun, you stop the criminal,” Emanuel said. “When any young person in our city is gunned down, without reason, their death makes an impression on all of us and it demands action from all of us.”

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marisa.gerber@latimes.com

@marisagerber

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