“The system is broken,” said Jennifer Williams, an African-American resident of Ahmaud Arbery’s alma mater, Mount St. Joseph University. Ms. Williams is pregnant with her second child and said she received a call Wednesday morning from a friend, who overheard the one-page statement police had issued that morning. It stated that Ms. Williams had been known to steal clothing. The statement, she said, did not reflect any of the concerns she’d had in the days leading up to the 20-year-old’s murder.
“He wasn’t following the rules of how you talk to a suspect,” Ms. Williams said. “What had happened to me, to my family? The statements are not helping my cause. And who is really protecting me and my family, that this has been how the justice system is? I never thought it would ever happen to me.”
Ms. Williams told The Times that she’d been with Ms. Arbery for about eight years, taking her into her home and feeding her and providing her with clothing and bathing her. Ms. Williams said the two were living together for a time and that she had cooked for Ms. Arbery regularly. “She was such a kind and beautiful person,” Ms. Williams said.
These details were not mentioned in the brief court document filed Wednesday by police or in the Police Department press release announcing that it had arrested three teens in Ms. Arbery’s murder. In it, they did not say Ms. Arbery’s relationship with any of the three. Ms. Williams said she had not spoken to any of the suspects since the day of Ms. Arbery’s death.
Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old honor student who had been named “A Chicago Young Woman to Watch” and performed with Ms. Arbery at the “Illinois on Parade” celebration the day before President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, had also been murdered this year. In February, four teens went on a shooting spree that killed five and wounded two, in a park near her home.
Ms. Pendleton’s mother, Cleopatra Pendleton, said in the moments after Hadiya’s death that Ms. Pendleton may have been targeted because of her racial identity, as Ms. Pendleton was a student at Kenneth H. Preston High School, where students are largely African-American and Black. Ms. Pendleton herself is African-American.
Such profiling has many African-Americans feeling not only hopeless, but also emboldened by other murders of young people that have struck the Chicago area recently. Most visibly, in the past several months, the Ku Klux Klan has been operating in Chicago. In May, Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old African-American, was shot 16 times in the street by a Chicago police officer, who was also African-American. Police say McDonald lunged at the officer before being shot, but Ms. McDonald’s family and advocates say the teen had walked away from police but was shot anyway. (The officer was later charged with first-degree murder and convicted this summer.)
After Hadiya’s death, Mr. Obama posted on Facebook that “Hadiya Pendleton’s death is heartbreaking. Nothing is more fundamental to who we are than giving young people a chance to make something of themselves.” And earlier this month, Mr. Obama vowed in an address at Niles North High School in Skokie, Ill., to do all he could to help protect young people from violence.
Perhaps it is in such a spirit that Deering-East Substitute High School student Leon Ford — 18, part of the same social circle as Ms. Pendleton — has vowed to attend both her funeral and Hadiya’s funeral. “She was probably my best friend. And we talked about everything. She used to cook for me,” Mr. Ford said in a telephone interview. “And when my grandma died, she called me every day. … She was my best friend.”
In her own short life, Ms. Pendleton had often told people, “All I want to do is make it.” But what exactly Ms. Pendleton’s would-be reward is likely to be is still unclear.
Ms. Williams’s other friends, asked about their plans for Saturday, were similarly hopeful. “I’m hoping she’ll meet up with a family member for a meal or she’ll be doing something to keep spirits up,” said Miss Johnson, who agreed