CHICAGO (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama will join some of Illinois' most recognizable politicians and clergy Saturday to mourn a 15-year-old honor student whose death has drawn attention to staggering gun violence in the nation's third-largest city.
But Hadiya Pendleton's family says her Saturday funeral service won't be about politics, but about remembering a girl who loved to dance, once appeared in an anti-gang video and died just days after performing at one of President Barack Obama's inauguration events.
None of the dignitaries are slated to speak during the service. The teen's pastor and brother will talk, and the musical group Pendleton was a member of will perform.
"Everything is about Hadiya," said Shatira Wilks, one of Pendleton's cousins and a family spokeswoman.
Pendleton was shot and killed while she talked with friends after school at a park not far from the Obamas' Chicago home. Police have said the Jan. 29 shooting appears to be a case of mistaken identity involving gang members who believed the park was their territory. Police say Pendleton was an innocent victim. No charges have been filed.
Her death brought new attention to Chicago's homicide rate and the national debate over gun violence. Pendleton's murder came in a January that was the city's deadliest in a decade. In 2012, Chicago recorded 506 homicides.
Others expected to attend the service are Gov. Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett — all of whom are from Chicago.
Quinn mentioned Pendleton's death in his State of the State address earlier this week as he called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
"There are no words in the English language . or any language . to relieve the pain of parents who lose a child," said Quinn, who said he spoke with Pendleton's family two days before his speech.
On Friday, mourners lined up outside a funeral home for Pendleton's wake. Some said they didn't know the young girl, but were moved to pay their respects out of a show of support.