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Gunman gets 84 years in prison for fatally shooting 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton

Hadiya Pendleton's family: "We got justice"

Chicago — A Chicago-area judge sentenced 24-year-old Micheail Ward to 84 years in prison for the 2013 shooting death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. Cook County Judge Nicholas Ford said Ward showed a "complete absence of empathy" for the shooting, CBS Chicago reports. 

Ward accused police and prosecutors of failing to find the real killer at his sentencing hearing.

"I am upset that I'm the one that's going down for a murder that I did not commit, that I just got found guilty, and now I've got to go do my life in jail, because of something that all y'all had to do was take time to investigate it," Ward said.

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Micheail Ward Cook County Sheriff

Ford, however, noted that Ward was not required to admit guilt. The judge also criticized Ward for showing a total lack of remorse over Pendleton's death. "I heard the defendant's protestations of innocence here, just like the rest of you folks here, a moment ago. He placed blame on almost any source you could imagine, other than his own conduct," Ford said.

Pendleton's mother, Cleopatra Cowley Pendleton, said Ward's sentence was acceptable because it was essentially a life sentence.

The shooting happened about a mile away from former President Barack Obama's home in Kenwood, just days after Pendleton performed in Mr. Obama's second inaugural parade.

"Hadiya's family was just like my family. Hadiya Pendleton was me, and I was her… But I got to grow up," former first lady Michelle Obama said at a 2013 fundraiser in the city.  

Ward's videotaped confession to the shooting was a key piece of evidence at trial. He told police he fired shots at Pendleton and her friends because he believed they were rival gang members and was seeking revenge, but claimed he only opened fire because the getaway driver, Kenneth Williams, threatened to kill him if he didn't.

The defense argued that police coerced him into giving a false confession. Williams was convicted by a different jury last year. His sentencing date has not yet been set.

The shooting sparked outrage across the nation and shed light on Chicago's gun violence. The young girl's parents went on to become anti-violence advocates.

City officials later renamed Buckthorn Playlot Park to Hadiya Pendleton Park to honor her life and memory.