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Men charged in Hadiya Pendleton shooting plead not guilty

Handout / Reuters

Micheal Ward and Kenneth Williams in a combination image of booking photos from the Chicago Police Department.

Two Chicago men charged in the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton have pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of first-degree murder.

Michael Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20, were charged last month in the death of the honors student who attended President Barack Obama's second inaugural just days before her death.

The prosecuting attorney on Thursday announced 141 counts of first-degree murder against Ward and 17 counts against Williams.

After court, Pendleton's father, Nathaniel, said his fight for change will only get stronger as the violence continues to claim young lives in Chicago.

"You're going to feel some anger, but I feel confident they will do what they have to do to make justice happen," Nathaniel Pendleton said.

Prosecutors said Pendleton was the unintended target in a gang war. Ward is accused of pulling the trigger; prosecutors say Williams was his accomplice.

"He didn't do this," Matthew McQuaid, Williams' attorney, said. "He's pleading not guilty. We see this case going to trial at some point because he's not going to plead guilty to something he didn't do."

Prosecutors said Ward gave a videotaped statement to police admitting to driving his mother's white Nissan that day to the park. He said Pendleton "had nothing to do with it" and "she was just there."

Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said Ward confessed to being the shooter, telling police that Pendleton was not his intended target. The superintendent said the shooting was in retaliation for a shooting last July that left Williams injured.

Pendleton, a student at King College Prep High, was shot as she and a group of other teens sought cover from a rainstorm in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park, on the 4500 block of South Oakenwald Avenue.

First lady Michelle Obama attended her funeral, and President Obama has named her in several speeches on gun control.

Pendleton's parents were guests at the president's State of the Union address, and her mother was in Washington Thursday to attend an event with other mothers whose children have been killed in gun violence.