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Teen who performed at Obama inaugural events shot dead in Chicago

By Catherine E. Shoichet and Ted Rowlands, CNN
updated 7:40 PM EST, Thu January 31, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Chicago mayor: "We have a responsibility to see a stop to this"
  • Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was shot dead in Chicago on Tuesday
  • Last week she performed in events surrounding President Obama's inauguration
  • "Just a matter of days after the happiest day of her life, she's gone," Sen. Dick Durbin says

Can there be a solution to America's gun problems? Anderson Cooper looks at both sides of the debate in "Guns Under Fire: an AC360ยบ Town Hall Special" Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on CNN. It will re-air at 10 p.m. ET.

Chicago (CNN) -- A teen who performed at events around President Barack Obama's inauguration was shot to death in Chicago this week, and now her story has become part of the debate in Washington over gun violence nationwide.

The shooting death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton came up in a U.S. Senate hearing and a White House press briefing Wednesday.

"She was an honor student and a majorette," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois. Performing at inaugural events last week "was the highlight of her young, 15-year-old life," he said.

Speaking at Wednesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, Durbin mentioned Pendleton's death as he argued that more must be done to stop gun crimes.

Giffords: 'Too many children dying'

"Yesterday, in a rainstorm after school, she raced to a shelter. A gunman came in and shot her dead," he said. "Just a matter of days after the happiest day of her life, she's gone."

The park shelter where she was shot is just a mile from Obama's home in Chicago.

White House spokesman Jay Carney described her death as a "terrible tragedy."

"The president has more than once, when he talks about gun violence in America, referred not just to the horror of Newtown or Aurora or Virginia Tech or Oak Creek but to shootings on the corner in Chicago or other parts of the country," Carney told reporters. "And this is just another example of the problem we need to deal with."

Watch: Chicago's 500 homicides in 2012

2013 has gotten off to a deadly start in Chicago -- Pendleton was the year's 42nd murder victim. No arrests have been made in the case, police said Wednesday.

In 2012, 506 people were slain in the city.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel described Pendleton Wednesday as "what's best in our city, a child going to school who takes a final exam, who had just been to the inaugural."

"We have a responsibility to see a stop to this," he said. "And all of us are responsible."

Pendleton was shot just blocks away from her high school on the south side of Chicago, CNN affiliate WGN reported.

LaPierre, the NRA's heavyweight

Police told CNN affiliates that the teenager had no gang affiliation and likely was not the intended target.

"There has to be an end to it. It's just too much. The children cannot go to school. They're in fear," Bonita O'Bannion, who lives in the area where the shooting occurred, told CNN affiliate WBBM.

Carney said the president and first lady's thoughts and prayers are with Pendleton's family.

"And as the president said, we will never be able to eradicate every act of evil in this country," Carney said, "but if we can save even one child's life, we have an obligation to try when it comes to the scourge of gun violence."

How the violent mentally ill can buy guns

CNN's Ted Rowlands reported from Chicago. CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet wrote the story in Atlanta. CNN's Tom Cohen contributed to this report from Washington.

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