First lady meets with murdered Chicago teen's family

First lady attends Chicago funeral


First lady Michelle Obama is meeting privately with the family of a 15-year-old Chicago honor student before attending the girl's funeral service.

Obama is among the dignitaries attending the service for Hadiya (huh-DYE'-yuh) Pendleton, whose death has brought national attention to Chicago's staggering gun violence.

Hundreds of people lined up outside a filled-to-capacity church to pay their respects to Pendleton.

Inside the church mourners filed past Pendleton's open casket, which was partially covered with flowers. A woman who walked in with the girl's family wailed loudly while organ and piano music played. 

Pendleton was a band majorette who was shot and killed just a few days after performing for events surrounding President Barack Obama's inauguration.

The first lady, who grew up on Chicago's South Side, arrived at the church shortly after 10 a.m. She is meeting in an upstairs room with Pendleton's immediate family. Other majorettes from Pendleton's team -- wearing their black and gold team jackets -- also were in the room.

The funeral service was to be attended by some of Illinois' most recognizable politicians and clergy. But Pendleton's family says her Saturday funeral service won't be about politics -- it will be about remembering a girl who loved to dance, who once appeared in an anti-gang video.

Police say Pendleton was an innocent victim in a gang-related shooting.

"Everything is about Hadiya," said Shatira Wilks, one of Pendleton's cousins and a family spokeswoman.

None of the dignitaries was 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.

Pendleton was shot and killed while she talked with friends after school at a park not far from the Obamas' home in the Kenwood neighborhood. 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.

Pendleton's murder came in a January that was the city's deadliest in a decade. In 2012, Chicago recorded 506 homicides.

Inside the church Saturday, photos from the honor student's life were projected on a screen at the front of the sanctuary. One shows her as a newborn swaddled in a pink bassinet. In others, she is smiling alongside family and friends.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.