Over the weekend, an 11-year-old child was shot and killed by stray gunfire after leaving an “anti-violence” cookout put on by his mother Crystal McNeal, a so-called “violence interrupter” in D.C., where she works to stop potential violence by speaking to the area’s most hardened criminals.
The criminals connected to young Davon’s death remain at large, though a report from The Washington Post published on Sunday suggests gang activity might have been related to the shooting; Davon, of course, not being a target but an innocent bystander.
As the cookout ended, Davon left to retrieve a phone charger and earbuds. At the same time, police say about five men started shooting at one another on a street nearby the cookout.
Davon, a football standout who dreamed of going pro, was struck in the head by a stray bullet and killed.
The child’s paternal grandfather, 50-year-old John Ayala, said Davon was supposed to be with him over the weekend, on a vacation in Florida, though the plans fell through due to coronavirus-related issues.
Ayala praised Davon’s mother as “the person who helped that community,” tragically noting, “She was putting on a community cookout to stop the violence, and her own son got killed.”
“Noting the demonstrations against racism and police brutality that have raged in the District and elsewhere since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ayala said he agrees with some protesters who say cities should turn to social workers and other civilians — rather than police — to deal with poverty, homelessness and other social problems,” The Washington Post reported.
Ayala emphasized, however, “We need more police, to put a dent in this crime.”
The circumstances surrounding the shooting remain “unclear,” The Washington Post noted, “but police said Davon was shot around 9:20 p.m. in the 1400 block of Cedar Street SE in Anacostia, just as the annual fireworks display burst over the Mall four miles away.”
The Washington Post added:
McNeal last year negotiated a truce among feuding combatants in Anacostia’s Cedar Gardens area, after taking more than a dozen young men from the neighborhood on a retreat to the Eastern Shore. Five of those individuals later left the neighborhood and two entered a jobs program, those who work with McNeal said.
But the cease-fire didn’t last. A week ago, surveillance cameras captured gunmen emerging from a vehicle and opening fire on the same block in which Davon was shot. No one was hit in the earlier shooting, but video released by police shows one man was armed with an assault-style rifle.
“We just had a real genuine kid who wanted to get out of the neighborhood. That’s all he said is, ‘I’m gonna make it,’” Kevin McGill, Davon’s football coach, said of the child. “These kids’ lives are being robbed over nothing.”
As a student in sixth-grade English class, Davon chose escaped slave and abolitionist movement leader Frederick Douglass as a historical figure on which to write a speech.