An 11-year-old boy who was shot and killed on July Fourth in Southeast D.C. was the son of a violence interrupter and had helped his mother earlier that day with an anti-violence event, city officials said Monday.
Davon McNeal, a middle school student, stepped out of his mother’s car Saturday night just as gunfire erupted among a group of men. The child was an innocent bystander.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Chief of Police Peter Newsham said at a news conference Monday that they will do everything they can to find McNeal’s killer and support his family.
“We want to express our sincere condolences to Davon’s mom, to Davon’s family. I can’t believe what it would be like to hold your 11-year-old in his arms as he’s losing his life,” the police chief said.
“They lost this great, beautiful boy who should be doing what 11-year-olds do,” the mayor said. “Because someone senselessly shot up his neighborhood, he’s dead.”
McNeal’s mother, Crystal McNeal, works as a violence interrupter through a city contractor, said Del McFadden, director of the D.C. Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement. The workers aim to prevent violence before it starts.
McNeal's mother had been devoted for some time to preventing violence in the exact neighborhood where her son was killed. They moved out of the neighborhood themselves about a year ago. McNeal’s grandfather John Ayala is involved in violence prevention too. He started a local chapter of the Guardian Angels.
At least 20 children attended a family-oriented anti-violence cookout on Saturday that Crystal McNeal organized, McFadden said. After the event, McNeal headed from his mother’s car to his aunt’s house to pick up a phone charger. That’s when the shooting started, Ayala said.
“In a matter of seconds, just stepping out the car, they heard gunshots. When they heard gunshots, he drops,” he said.
McNeal’s mother thought her young son was taking cover.
“He was actually shot. The mother held him,” Ayala said.
Five men in a black sedan sped off.
Officers who were nearby were flagged down at about 9:20 p.m., Newsham said. McNeal was rushed from the 1400 block of Cedar Street SE to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The 11-year-old loved football and dreamed of playing in the NFL. Family members said he talked about it all the time.
McNeal’s maternal grandfather, Tony Lawson, wept as he spoke about him. He begged the shooters and any witnesses to contact police.
“I hope somebody speaks up. You know what’s going on! Speak up! Stop being scared,” he said through tears.
No arrests had been announced as of Monday evening. The police chief said, though, that “some of the best detectives in the city” had made “significant” progress in the case. There is no reason to believe the child was targeted because of his mother’s work, Newsham said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police. A $25,000 reward is offered.
The mayor said she knows detectives will find there was no reason for anyone to fire the shot that killed McNeal.
“I guarantee you when we find out what this is about, it’s going to be about nothing,” she said with disgust in her voice.