CHICAGO: A 15-year-old girl who had performed in President Barack Obama’s inauguration festivities is the latest face on the ever-increasing homicide toll in the president’s hometown, killed by a gunman who apparently was not even aiming at her in a Chicago park as she talked with friends.

Chicago police said Hadiya Pendleton was in a park about a mile from Obama’s home in a South Side neighborhood Tuesday afternoon when a man opened fire on the group. Hadiya was shot in the back as she tried to escape.

The city’s 42nd slaying is part of its bloodiest January in more than a decade, following on the heels of 2012, which ended with more than 500 homicides for the first time since 2008.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the president and the first lady’s “thoughts and prayers are with” the teen’s family, adding: “And as the president has said, we will never be able to eradicate every act of evil in this country, but if we can save any one child’s life, we have an obligation to try when it comes to the scourge of gun violence.”

About three blocks from Hadiya’s school, she and a group of 10 to 12 young people, including members of her volleyball team, had taken refuge under a canopy at a park to avoid rain Tuesday afternoon. A man climbed a fence behind the park, ran at the group and started shooting, and then jumped back over the fence and into a white car. Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy vowed to put a police officer at the park “24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year” if that is what it takes to show gangs that the park belongs to no one but the community.