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Man convicted in fatal shooting of teen Hadiya Pendleton sentenced to 42 years in prison

Hadiya's life was cut short by random gun violence in 2013. The 15-year-old's death came to define a city entrenched in shootings of young people.
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Eight years ago, Chicago teenager Hadiya Pendleton was killed in a random shooting that drew the attention of then-President Barack Obama and came to define the city's struggles with curbing gun and gang violence.

On Tuesday, her family was given a measure of justice: Kenneth Williams, who was found guilty in 2018 of first-degree murder as the getaway driver in the case, was sentenced to 42 years in prison.

Williams, 29, refused attorneys and chose to represent himself during his sentencing, saying that he viewed the legal system as illegitimate and said Tuesday he had been "misjudged," The Chicago Tribune reported. A doctor previously declared Williams was competent to represent himself.

"You are responsible for so much sadness, hurt and depression," Hadiya's mother, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, said Tuesday in a victim impact statement. "We've all had to re-create our lives, learn how to breathe, think, communicate and function. It has been hell."

Williams' co-defendant, Micheail Ward, was found guilty of firing the gun that struck the girl and sentenced in 2019 to 84 years in prison. Ward, who was 18 at the time of the shooting, had been on probation after pleading guilty to a weapons charge a year earlier.

Hadiya was 15 when she was killed. After taking her final exams at the King College Prep High School, she took cover from the rain with other classmates at a nearby park. There, prosecutors said, Ward got out of a car driven by Williams and opened fire, believing he was shooting at rival gang members.

The incident took place about a mile from Obama's home in Chicago's South Side.

Three weeks before she was killed, Hadiya was part of a majorette squad selected to perform at Obama's second inauguration festivities.

The teen's funeral drew hundreds, including then-first lady Michelle Obama.

During Obama's State of the Union address in 2013, the president highlighted her killing as a reason why he was pushing for tighter gun control measures.

"She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend," Obama said. "Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house."

Hadiya's death influenced legislation named in part for her, and is being reintroduced in Congress by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and seeks to make gun trafficking across state lines a federal crime.

Chicago, meanwhile, 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 most recent spike in gun violence was in 2016, when 788 homicides were recorded.