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The War in Chicago

A "48 Hours" investigation into drugs, guns, gangs and the battle for America's third-largest city

Produced by Josh Yager, Doug Longhini, Josh Gaynor and Kathleen O'Connell

[This story first aired on May 18, 2013. It was updated on June 28, 2014]

After Hadiya Pendleton was shot in a Chicago park, she quickly became a symbol of the deadly street violence in the city. But nearly every day, someone is gunned down in Chicago, often the result of gangs fighting over territory to sell drugs.

In the fall of 2012, "48 Hours" correspondent Maureen Maher and CBS News correspondent Armen Keteyian began reaching out to some of the victims who are hurting and some of the people who are fighting back in this city at war over guns, gangs, and drugs.

"I wish you guys could've been here asking me about, you know, the dancing at the inauguration, but unfortunately this is what we're dealing with," Hadiya's father, Anthony Pendleton, told Maher.

"We know from years of working the streets ... that much of the gang-related shootings -- are drug related," Jack Riley, who heads up the Chicago division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, told Keteyian.

To get the gangs, Riley and the DEA go after their drugs -- heroin in particular.

"That's why I look the way I look, that's why I don't sleep a lot," he said. "One homicide in this city is too many. One person abusing heroin in the suburbs is too many."

Paula Nixon started using heroin when she 16. "... and the first time I did it ... I was in my family room ... and I was thinking, 'this is the best feeling in the world,'" she said.

Heroin has taken many of Paula's friends, but she can't kick it on her own.

"I'm not strong enough... if I saw heroin in front of me right now I can't tell you that I wouldn't do it," she said. "There is no amount of willpower I have on my own that I can stop."

With drug dealers at his doorstep, David Muhammad risked his life to stop them.

"Every day for about a year I videotaped them," he said. "It's worth it to lose my life if I have to try to slow this down."

For six months, we watched David Muhammad stand up to drug dealers, Paula Nixon battle her heroin addiction and the Pendletons search for justice.

The Chicago Police force and the DEA have been hunting down drug-dealing gangs and "48 Hours" is there as it all unfolds.

HADIYA PENDLETON

In 2012, the murder rate in Chicago soared to more than 500 - that's more than New York, though Chicago is only a third the size. "48 Hours" had been in Chicago for six months investigating gun violence when Hadiya Pendleton was shot to death.

Suddenly, what had been a local story began to fuel a national debate.

"One of those we lost was a girl named Hadiya Pendleton," President Barack Obama said in his State of Union Address. "Hadiya's parents Nate and Cleo are in this chamber tonight."

hadiyapendletonap763026092998fullwidth.jpg
Hadiya Pendleton
AP Photo/Courtesy of Damon Stewart

Hadiya, 15, was gunned down on January 29, 2013, in a park only a mile from President Obama's Chicago home when members of a street gang apparently mistook her group of friends for a rival gang.

Until that moment, Hadiya's life had been largely untouched by Chicago violence, according to her parents, Anthony and Cleopatra. And "48 Hours" found Hadiya had no connection to gangs.

As early as the sixth grade, when she made a school video, she seemed to understand the risks for kids in her city:

Hi. My name is Hadiya ... this commercial is informational for you and your future children. ... so many children are joining gangs and it is your job to say no to gangs and yes to a great future.

"Amongst everything else she was doing, she was on the debate team ... she was a majorette, she did volleyball," Pendleton said. "Basketball... cheerleading," Cleo Cowley added.

Her parents say Hadiya was a normal, happy teenager who dreamed of being a veterinarian or a journalist.

"What did you see her growing into?" Maher asked.

"Whatever she wanted to, to be perfectly honest," Cowley said. "Best answer," Pendleton agreed.

"It's the truth, whatever she wanted and whatever it was she was going to be hugely successful at it," said Cowley.

Less than a week after Hadiya's high school marching band had returned from the president's inauguration, school had just let out on an unusually warm winter day.

"When I got a phone call from her friend and she was like screaming, 'Hadiya's been shot. Hadiya's been shot...' Cowley recalled in a whisper.

She says she literally could not make sense of it -- even after meeting her husband at the hospital.

"This can't be us," she said. "This is not our life! This is not the rest of my life!"

"I mean, only thing I could really remember is 'why they bringin' these tissues in here? Why they bringin' these tissues in here?"" said Pendleton.

"After the doctor came in and told you that she hadn't made it, what do you remember happening after that?" Maher asked.

"I died," Cowley replied. "This is my best description...you ride roller coasters? ... I think the intensity of riding the ride is hearing the click, click, click ... and then the roller coaster starts to roll ... your stomach goes, like crazy, and you reach instinctively for that bar ... it's like reaching for that bar, but never having it and never falling any further to level off."

Just days after Hadiya's murder, the Pendleton family was riding an emotional roller coaster. But they agreed to let "48 Hours" into their lives as they remembered Hadiya's life as a typical teenager.

They wanted to share their memories, in the hope that her death would mean something.

"I just think that there needs to be an awareness that, you know, there are good people out here that have promising futures that are not living to see them through because -- because something's wrong," said Cowley.

"We've got people dying ... and I'm not rolling over, I have not thrown the towel in," said Jack Riley, who thinks he knows why so many of Chicago's children are dying.

Riley is a long-time veteran of the DEA and heads the agency's Chicago office, which controls five surrounding states.

"I wanted to retire a few years ago ... my wife's naggin' me every day... get outta the job," he said. "I can't do it!"

While Hadiya became a celebrity in death, shootings happen just about every day in Chicago.

Riley says many Chicago shootings are carried out by the area's roughly 70,000 gang members who are going to war over one thing in particular: drugs

"In your mind, there is an absolute direct connection between the murder rate in Chicago and the drug wars in the streets," Armen Keteyian noted to Riley.

"As sure as I'm sitting here telling you," he replied.

He said these days, the gangs are fighting mostly over distribution of one drug alone: heroin.

"It is right now the drug of choice for street gangs," said Riley.

A man who is risking his life to talk to "48 Hours" says the heroin is brought to Chicago by one main source: Mexico's infamous Sinaloa Cartel.

"And the worst part is they are armed," the man said. "It's practically a time bomb, and this is the reality we're living."

"How powerful is the Cartel influence in Chicago right now?" Keteyian asked.

"Very strong the influence of the Sinaloa Cartel here in Chicago and it's getting stronger," the man said.

He should know. He was once trusted by the cartel to smuggle drugs to Chicago. "I tell them if they have 50 kilos, I'll buy that...if they have 100 kilos in a week, I can sell that too," he said.

Jack Riley says the Sinaloa Cartel was run by one of the world's most dangerous men: Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, who escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001. The Feds say Guzman targeted Chicago specifically.

Why Chicago? "It's the same reason there's many fortune 500 companies here," Riley told Keteyian. "It is a business logistic home run."

"We're over some of the biggest interstates in the country here in addition to the trucking and obviously the rail and that's what makes this area so important to traffickers," Riley explained while flying over the city with Keteyian.

"Jack, you've got a personal history with Chapo Guzman?" Keteyian asked.

"Yeah, I hate the guy," Riley replied. "He made it clear to some of his subordinates that he would like to see my head lopped off. ... I still got my head ... get in line Chapo! C'mon let's go!"

Guzman was considered such a menace to these streets that the city's crime commission named him "Public Enemy Number One" -- a title they last bestowed on notorious gangster Al Capone.

"Chapo to Chicago right now is what Al Capone was in my opinion," Riley explained.

"Does that make you the modern day Eliot Ness?" Keteyian quipped.

"I've been called worse!" said Riley.

Until Guzman and the Sinoloa cartel are is brought to justice, Riley and a multi-agency "strike force" are vowing to take down the violent Chicago street gangs that do the cartel's bidding.

"They're demanding a safer place to live, a safer place to raise their kids...and that's what it's all about today," he said.

"This is good versus evil and you're riding with good today," Riley commented to Keteyian as they headed to a pre-dawn raid.

THE HEROIN HIGHWAY

It may look like a scene from Iraq or Afghanistan, but, just 20 miles from Chicago, Jack Riley of the DEA is training an army to fight a drug war.

It's a new strike force to target middlemen between the violent street gangs and the Mexican cartels. They're making raids all over the area - from one on a quiet suburban street in Plainfield, Ill., to one in Gary, Indiana -- only about 15 miles from Chicago.

More and more these days, heroin is making its way out of the inner city, where it is cut and packaged for sale at secret locations. The workers in a so-called chop house on Chicago's west side are naked to keep them from stealing the drug before it reaches its suburban clientele.

To get their drugs, many suburban users drive down a stretch of Interstate 290 onto the city's west side. The street gangs in control of the neighborhoods there grant them safe passage. So many addicts are using the road that it's earned a nickname: the heroin highway.

"Well from what we're seeing is that heroin users take that road and head right into the west side of the city to purchase heroin. This is a crucial artery to the whole regional problem," he told Keteyian as they flew above the heroin highway.

"After I would get my heroin ... I would drive home high," said 18-year-old Paula Nixon.

Paula was a good student, an athlete and an avid photographer living in the leafy suburb of Glenview. While Hadiya Pendleton lost her life to Chicago's violence, Paula has been living through a different kind of war.

"You live to get high!" she told Maureen Maher.

Her ordeal began in 2011, when she was sitting in the family room with her boyfriend and he encouraged her to try a little bag of white powder. Paula was only 16.

"I remember saying, 'I love this feeling!'" she said.

Like much of the heroin coming from Mexico these days, it was cheaper than a six pack and easier to use -- so pure it could be snorted.

"I snorted the first time," Paula told Maher. Asked if she was hooked right away, Paula said, "Yeah ... The first high is the greatest. It really is. ... All your problems are gone..."

It was so good, Paula says, that she couldn't stop. She began driving the heroin highway nearly every day -- even after the boy who got her started died of an overdose.

"People ask me, 'How do you continue to use after you lose someone like that?'" she said. "... and it's indescribable how strong it is."

In suburban Will County, a middle class area southwest of Chicago, Coroner Pat O'Neil says heroin use has become an epidemic.

"I've signed four death certificates this week and all four have been heroin overdoses," he said.

In 2012, fatal overdoses were up 76 percent over the year before.

"We have more heroin overdoses than car crash fatalities and homicides combined," said O'Neal.

In nearby Naperville, Jaymes Lindbloom knows the heroin scene well. He admits he was a dealer while at Neuqua Valley High School and drove the heroin highway to pick up his product.

"Kids from suburbs ... ride down to the west side [of] Chicago all the time," he explained. "People think it's such a far-fetched idea, you know. But it's just - it's in everyone's back yard now."

"It's taking over slowly but surely. I mean...It's everywhere," said Paula.

"It's like living with someone that's crazy," said Paula's mother, PJ Newberg.

Newberg forced her daughter into rehab.

"She made a horrible scene... I mean, she started swearing and yelling and kicking," she said. "I didn't recognize her; she was a completely different person."

When she got out, Paula did well for a while, but then fell of the wagon. After four more failed rehabs, Newberg decided tough love was her only hope -- and kicked Paula out of the house. In some ways though, that decision only made matters worse.

"I couldn't even sleep," said Newberg.

"What would you lay in bed thinking about?" Maher asked.

"Where is she? What's gonna happen to her? Is she alive?" Newberg replied.

Paula was alive, but within a few months, she was homeless -- injecting heroin five times a day.

"You'll do anything for it. You'll betray your family, your friends," she explained. "I stole my father's wedding ring and pawned it. ... like who does that?"

In September 2012, Paula was jailed for shoplifting. Four months behind bars forced her to get clean. But once she was released into rehab, the question was, could she stay clean? Even Paula had her doubts.

"I am scared! I am scared that I'm gonna relapse," she said. "I am scared that, you know, I won't get it this time, just like I don't every other time."

What's so hard for kids like Paula is that they know the heroin they crave is just down the road.

"My corner ... was dominated by gang members and drug dealers," David Muhammad said.

It's a neighborhood where "48 Hours" found one man risking his life to stop the gangs, guns and drugs.

Said Muhammad, "... one of the drug dealers told me that he would shoot me, I knew it was time to do something."

TAKING A STAND

On an early Sunday morning, the believers at the Sun Rise Baptist Church on Chicago's west side are already wide awake.

Inside, the spirit is high. But on any given day, just outside on the corner of Kilbourn and Van Buren, a much more sinister gathering takes place.

"All nationalities, all ages ... come and buy the drugs out of this community," said 58-year-old David Muhammad. The retired diesel mechanic for the city lives across the street from the church. For him, this corner is at the center of the city's drug war.

"... the whole block, the intersection, sitting on the church steps. All of that was used for drug activity," he told Armen Keteyian.

It is the heart of Chicago's 11th District, one of the most violent in the city -- the de facto property of Chicago's largest gang, the trigger-happy Gangster Disciples.

"I heard about 10 shots just go off. ...It was like pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa," Muhammad said, imitating the sound of the gunshots. "It's a common thing. When people around there hear gunshots ... you don't duck or anything. You're just used to it."

Seventeen convicted gun offenders lived within a 10-block radius from Muhammad's doorstep, where he says gang members deal heroin and crack from morning until night.

"Sometimes I would call the police and they wouldn't even come," he said. "It was like the wild, wild west."

When he saw dealers doing business right in front of the Baptist church, Muhammad, a Muslim, took a stand.

"It's a Baptist church. But in Islam we're taught to protect all institutions of God. So it was like a slap in my face for them to deal drugs right out of the door of the Church," he told Keteyian.

Politely, he asked the local dealers to take their business elsewhere. They pulled a knife and threatened to kill him. So Muhammad retreated to his house and armed himself, vowing to fight back. His weapon? A small digital camera.

"You were videotaping the drug sales?" Keteyian asked.

"Yes," Muhammad said. "Every day for about a year I videotaped them."

Every day, he sat at his third-floor window filming through a crack in his tightly-drawn blinds, capturing one stop on the heroin highway; each car, each face, each deal, each dealer.

"How many people during the course of the day on a busy day would you see come to that corner?" Keteyian asked.

"I'd say at least 75," Muhammad replied.

Like customers at a fast food restaurant, they came in sunshine and in snow.

"Every walk of life. Every walk of life," Muhammad noted -- black, white, Latino, housewives and businessmen. "All of that," he said.

The deals went off like clockwork: drugs in, money out. Everyday people getting their fix.

"It's not exactly subtle, Dave. The guy's driving a dump truck," Keteyian commented as he and Muhammad watched one of the deals captured on video.

"OK, now watch the hand come out of the window," Muhammad said. "...money ... drugs. It don't get too much better than that."

"Your sense is these are heroin dealers on your street," Keteyian noted.

"Oh, absolutely. The people come back every day, sometimes two and three times a day," Muhammad said.

The threats to his life kept coming, but David Muhammad decided to take it a dangerous step further by posting 75 of his videos on YouTube, to let the world know what was happening on his block.

"David, I hate to be blunt about this, but one of these guys could just walk up to you and say, 'You know what, it's over,' and put a bullet in your head," Keteyian said. "You think about that?"

"No," Muhammad replied. "No, I don't think about it. I just be careful as I can be ... If it's meant for me to leave here like that, I'll leave."

For Muhammad, each video in his vast collection tells a personal story of addiction, none more vivid or powerful than the man in the pickup truck.

"...he's gettin' ready to snort," Muhammad points out.

"There he goes. Wow! Head down," Keteyian said as he watched the man taking a hit while sitting in the driver's seat.

"...he's serious," said Muhammad.

"... and he just gives that little bit of a ... wow -- that's like five hits. Snortin' heroin," said Keteyian.

David Muhammad's goal is boundless yet simple: clean up just one street -- his street.

And he did clean it up. The dealing has stopped on Kilbourn and Van Buren and his neighbors have noticed. The church steps are clear; his block is, too.

But this is real life. He says the dealers have just moved to another corner close by, away from the eye of David Muhammad's lens.

The problem remains, but for one man, a little progress outweighs the enormous risk.

"...it's worth it to lose my life if I have to," Muhammad said. "I don't think I can stop it, but I think that someone has to try and slow it down because it's moving too fast."

Hadiya Pendleton's family didn't have to call for attention. Their tragedy seemed to attract it.

"I was just a woman that lost her kid...and then I got up off the floor and the world knew her," Cleo Cowley told listeners of radio show.

It was a constant buzz of calls and cameras, vigils and rallies, including attention from the governor and the mayor.

"I have called Cleo and Nate ... either every night or almost every other night," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters.

It was all overwhelming, but it was also a helpful distraction.

"...all of it was just taken in stride. Like, 'Look at you, Hadiya. You know, I'm proud of you,' because they were callin' because of her," said Cowley.

And it got results, Just two days after Hadiya was gunned down, Chicago Police Superintendant Garry McCarthy made an announcement:

"We are going to take approximately 200 sworn officers and reassign them from administrative assignments to field duties," he told reporters.

The law enforcement surge immediately flooded Chicago's streets and neighborhoods with the power and presence of hundreds of uniformed cops.

"Before a flame becomes a fire, to put it out," Emanuel told reporters, "and, uh, have the resources to do that."

And then, just two weeks after Hadiya Pendleton's death, 18-year-old Michael Ward and 20-year-old Kenneth Williams, ID'd by police as Gangster Disciples, were arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Police say Ward confessed and indicated that Hadiya was not the intended target.

"Do you think the attention that was placed on Hadiya's case helped to have it solved more quickly than others?" Maher asked Cowley.

"Probably, probably," she replied.

"Would the pain you're in right now be more difficult if it was six months from now and there had been no arrests?" Maher asked.

"Yes," Cowley replied.

"And no answers?"

"Yes."

And that is a pain another mother knows all too well. Her 15-year-old daughter was gunned down in Chicago in November 2012. But the response to that senseless murder has been very different.

"My daughter's murderer is still standing on the streets," said Bonita Foster.

ANOTHER SENSELESS MURDER

To hear Cleo Cowley and Bonita Foster talk, it almost sounds like the two grieving mothers shared the same 15 year-old daughter.

"She was sweet, she was loved, she was a peacemaker," said Bonita Foster.

"She very much liked helping people," said Cowley. "That was my baby girl."

"A happy person, she was always happy," said Foster.

Porshe Foster and Hadiya Pendleton never met, but both fell victim to Chicago's merciless street violence.

Porshe Foster

Porshe Foster

Porshe was shot in November 2012, when -- as with Hadiya two months later -- a gunman opened fire on her and other teenagers who were standing around talking.

Bonita Foster was at work, driving a public transit van when she found out her daughter had been shot. By the time she got to the hospital, Porshe was already gone.

"I knew by the look on the doctor's face," she said. "[Sighs] That was an unbelievable moment."

The lives of both 15-year-olds have been frozen in time. Neither girl will go to a prom, go to college or get married and have her own children.

"You know, I just whispered to her, 'I'm sorry this had happened to you. I'm sorry," said Foster.

But that is where the similarities end. It is as if Porshe and Hadiya died in a city with two very different police departments: one for high-profile cases, the other for almost everyone else.

One department, as Chicago's Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy described, moved heaven and earth to solve the murder of the teenager who had been at the president's inauguration.

Arrests were quickly made. But most killers in Chicago never get caught. In fact, that other police department solved only 26 per cent of the homicides committed in 2012.

"What irritates me, my daughter's murderer is still standing on the streets," said Foster.

More than a year after Porshe Foster's murder, there still have been no arrests.

"I don't see why one gets more attention than the other. I am thinking that had they took the action that they're taking now, with her, with Porshe... maybe little Ms. Pendleton would still be here," said Foster.

Porshe's family says there's has been almost no information from the police, though shortly after she was killed, a detective did stop by.

"He came - shortly after. He was on his way to another shooting," Foster told Maher. "He gave me his card. And - that's the last I've heard from or seen him. ... We have tried to call. ... And we find out he's on vacation. I haven't talked to him [in two months]."

"We've made calls to the officer doing the investigation," said

Demetria Rogers, Porshe's aunt. "I did just call him last week and I haven't gotten a response - phone call yet."

Chicago police dispute those accounts. Two months after "48 Hours"' interview, a detective did pay another visit, but the family believes more should be done. So they're trying to find Porshe's killer themselves, putting up reward posters near the crime scene.

"That's gonna happen again next week if it's-- if it's not happening right now as we're speaking. It's gonna happen again next week. It's gonna happen again. It's gonna keep happening," said Foster.

"And why does it keep happening?" Maher asked.

"I actually believe this thing is bigger than the police. Can the police handle this?" Foster asked.

"Can they?" Maher asked.

"Can they?' Cause if they can, then what's the problem?" said Foster.

"She was told repeatedly by -- when she called the department, 'He's on vacation. No one else can talk to you. You'll have to wait till he gets back,'" Maher told Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

"OK -- that shouldn't have happened," he said. "There's a system where if the detective's not there there's supposed to be somebody else picking that up and taking care of it.

"You've gotta treat every individual, every victim like you're treating one of your own family members or you would want your family members to be treated," said McCarthy.

"Can you understand how the parents of some of these other victims felt like the Hadiya Pendleton case got more attention than their case did? Maher asked.

"I speak to -- I speak to the families all the time. So absolutely I understand it. But you know that's not something that we did. That's something that happened in the press and in the media. That's where that got blown up," said McCarthy.

McCarthy says it was good old-fashioned detective work that quickly solved the Pendleton case, not the extra 200 cops on the streets.

"Was that just a coincidence then, the timing that it came right after Hadiya was killed and there was such national attention?" Maher asked McCarthy.

"Yeah, probably was a coincidence," he said.

Whether by coincidence or as a result of the surge, McCarthy says, "We're starting to hit a point that I am hoping will be a turning point."

In the year since Hadiya Pendleton was killed, Chicago's homicide rate dropped 22 percent.

"We're getting progress, not victory," said McCarthy. He says most homicides are gang-related, one gang member shooting another.

"So how are you getting in front of it today?" Maher asked McCarthy.

"We actually ... charted out the territories that the gangs call their own, and every gang member within those gangs and every gang they're in conflict with," he replied.

Chicago police now track gang conflicts to try to predict -- and stop -- the next shooting.

"We put our resources into that neighborhood, picking up those guns that we're seizing more than anybody else in the country and preventin' those retaliatory shootings," McCarthy explained. "The mayor recognizes as do I that we're not going to fix this thing by throwing on a light switch."

But like many big cities, Chicago has serious budget problems. The extra police on the streets is costing the city millions. Can they afford to keep up the fight?

SUCCESSES & SETBACKS

There are lines of demarcation in every city. For the uniquely American city of Chicago, the death of Hadiya Pendleton may well be one of them. After her murder on Jan. 29, 2013, the number of extra police on the streets -- in high-crime neighborhoods -- doubled to 400 with officers working seven days a week

In the six months we shadowed the DEA and its newly-formed strike force, it had its fair share of success.

Jack Riley's agents seized millions of dollars of Chapo Guzman's heroin. But by the end of 2013, they had failed, as yet, to execute the type of big-time bust needed to cripple the cartel's hold on Chicago.

"Someone might say, Jack ... the war on drugs has been a failure and this is just the next chapter of that failure," Keteyian commented.

"Now you've got my Irish going," he said. "The changes we're making, the way we're attacking organizations, the way we're educating suburban police departments for the first time, by the way, is going to have an effect. It's gonna take time. And if you hold tight with us in the next couple of months, I think you're gonna see the fruits of our labor come to fruition."

On Feb. 22, 2014, the world's most notorious drug kingpin finally was captured after 13 years on the run. American agents pinpointed Joaquin Chapo Guzman's location at a seaside hotel in Mazatlan, Mexico, using cell phone signal tracers while Mexican Marines moved in for the arrest.

Guzman is being tried in Mexico on several organized crime charges. He has also been indicted in seven states, but it is unclear if he will ever be extradited to the U.S. to face trial.

But even with Guzman behind bars, the drug war is far from over. Either the Sinaloa cartel under new management or one of their rivals is expected to go right on sending billions of dollars of illegal drugs up the "heroin highway" to Chicago and around the world.

"48 Hours" was there in April 2013, when Paula Nixon completed rehab and moved into a halfway house.

"I'm doing good, I'm really happy to be here," she said. "I'm waiting for this place for almost six weeks..."

But less than three weeks later, she disappeared. Her mother was frantic.

"I called her eight times in the last two days and she wouldn't pick it up. She doesn't want to talk to me," PJ Newberg said in tears.

Then she discovered her daughter had been picked up for shoplifting again. Paula was back in jail, but alive.

"It's tragic ... it's tragic ... it's life or death. I know how easy it is to overdose...I don't want her to die! I really don't," Newberg cried.

For Hadiya Pendleton's family and friends, her funeral was a day filled with love and loss.

"I'm so broken ... like I'm so like distraught. Like I don't know how to explain it," Cleo Cowley said. "There's not enough for me to try to understand that, like, someone actually did this to my family ... like someone actually did this, stole my baby."

With Hadiya's 10-year-old brother, Anthony Jr., in tow, the Pendletons arrived at a church already overflowing, with people and emotion.

It wasn't just family and community. It was media, local and state dignitaries -- even the first lady came. As one Chicago mother comforted another, an emotional Cleo Pendleton continued riding a roller coaster of grief and gratitude.

"No mother, no father should ever have to experience this," she told the crowd packed inside the church. "I just want to say thank you to everyone who had something to do with grounding her and making her who she was."

The same community that helped raise Hadiya, seemed to raise her family's spirits.

"... precious Hadiya, you were excited to have been at the inauguration in the presence of the President. Today you sit at in the welcome table, in the presence of the King of Kings. ...Welcome home sweet Hadiya, see you on the other side," Father Michael Pfleger spoke from the pulpit.

Damon Stewart was Hadiya's godfather. "I loved that child... nobody knows how much I love that child," he said at the funeral.

As a Chicago police officer, he reminded everyone a city is only as strong as its citizens.

"If you say this is painful to you - then prove it," he urged the crowd." Police your own family... find someone with your blood and make a decision you're not going to turn your back on them."

Hadiya's parents say they were always there for her.

"How many times do you ask yourself, 'Why?'?" Maher asked.

"Too many to count," Cowley replied.

"Then you still ask yourself ... 'why mine?'" said Anthony Pendleton.

The answers live in the hearts and eyes of those left behind, like Hadiya's little brother.

For Porshe Foster, the hundreds of others who were lost and for 15- year-old Hadiya Pendleton who came to symbolize all of them.

"She's important because of those other people who died are important. She's important because all those lives and the voices of their families that was ignored or that was silenced she now speaks for," Stewart said of Hadiya.

This was a family's plea for peace.

Said Stewart, "She's a representative not just of the people of Chicago. She's a representative of the people across this nation who has lost their lives ..."

The two men charged with the killing of Hadiya Pendleton have pleaded not guilty. No trial date has been set.

There has still been no arrest in the killing of Porshe Foster.

The murder rate in Chicago in 2014 is down 33 percent compared to the first half of 2012.