WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - In the midst of the twin crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and protests against police brutality, D.C. residents were reminded of another, more familiar catastrophe when an 11-year-old child was killed by gunfire on July 4.
Davon McNeal was killed while retrieving a cell phone charger at a community cookout over the weekend.
The killing may remind some D.C. residents of the deaths of 10-year-old Makiyah Wilson and 11-year-old Karon Brown.
Speaking on Monday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser offered an emotional response to the epidemic of gun violence in the city.
“We’re dealing with a response to a health pandemic, to demonstrations brought on by outrage about an American people killed in the streets, representative of other Americans killed in the streets, and now we see our kids killing each other – over what? I guarantee when they find out what this is about, it’s going to be about nothing, it’s going to be about absolute nothing,” Bowser said.
The mayor stressed that gun violence itself is a pandemic face by D.C. residents.
“So the other pandemic that we have to respond to is just this sense of hopelessness with guns that will kill other kids,” she said.
The mayor talked to the victim’s mother over the weekend, offering her condolences.
“So when I spoke to Crystal and I spoke to John and his wife all I can really say is how sorry I am, how sorry I am that they lost this bright, beautiful boy, who should be doing what 11-year-old are doing. That’s what he should be doing. And because somebody senselessly shot up his neighborhood, he’s dead. It’s not a game, it’s not a video, he’s not coming back. It’s real bullets, real bullets kill children. So that’s hard to convey to a mom,” she said.
Bowser stressed, however, that she has the support of the District.
“She knows that the city hurts with her, and is with her, and we’re going to do everything we can to help her,” the mayor said.
The family is heavily involved in anti-violence activity in D.C.
The victim’s mother – Crystal McNeal – is a violence interrupter.
His grandfather, John Ayala, is a DC Guardian Angel and a long-time community advocate. He told FOX 5 he agrees with the Mayor’s words.
“Like she mentioned, you can’t wave a magic wand and it’s going to be done,” said Ayala.
On Monday morning, he put a “call to action” out on Facebook asking community members who want to stop gun violence in their neighborhood to join his Guardian Angels chapter.
Ayala and supporters went back to Cedar St. SE where 11-year-old Davon was killed, to talk with anyone willing to give them time.
“She’s not the one out here putting guns in people hands,” said Ayala of Mayor Bowser, “But she do have a team of officers, detectives, she talked to other people that go out in the community to try and prevent what’s going on. And that’s the best she can do. Hopefully, maybe somebody will come out with a better idea and a better plan, talk to her and then she can put in her plan to make it work. But it’s hard – and again, it’s not just in D.C., it’s everywhere. So they can’t just expect her to come out and make a change overnight. It’s not going to happen.”
As Ayala highlighted on Sunday, his grandson is not the only child DC has last to gun violence.
Asked if he felt nothing’s changed, Ayala told FOX 5, “Again, it’s not going to happen overnight. I think it does change. It changes one child at a time, one teenager at a time, one adult at a time. The ones that was out there causing problem and my organization or other organizations got to then, ya’ll don’t know about them. Those are the ones that they’re quiet. They just say, ‘Look, I’m done. Thanks for it. I appreciate it. I went and got a job. I’m trying to take care of my family.’ You’re not going to hear about those people. You’re only going to hear about the things that are happening in our community that’s causing our community to go down.”
“As the Mayor said, we want to express our sincere condolences. To Davon’s mom, to Davon’s family, I can’t imagine what it would be like to hold your 11-year-old son in your arms as he’s losing his life. We have some of the best detectives in the Metropolitan Police Department that are assigned to this case and we have made significant progress. We intend to hold all the suspects that are responsible for this little boy’s death accountable for their actions,” said DC Police Chief Peter Newsham.
The mayor – whose budget includes more than $800,000 in cuts to violence interruption programs – says that the budget alone will not present an answer to gun violence.
“People want it to stop. And sometimes they think I can make it stop, the police chief can make it stop, a violence interrupter can make it stop. And to have this confluence of having an event sponsored by violence interrupters, and you have the child of a violence interrupter killed,” Bowser said.
A new proposal would restore all of the funding.
The mayor said there isn’t a magic answer in the budget that can eliminate the problem.
“I wish there were,” she said.
The authorities are offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the suspect responsible for Davon McNeal’s death.