McNeal’s son Davon, 11, joined her near the end of the event, which was aimed at building trust and peace.
While the cookout in the Cedar Gardens section of Anacostia was winding down, five men began shooting in the street nearby, police said.
At least one bullet struck Davon in the head, killing him.
The sixth-grader, a youth football star who dreamed of going pro, had just completed his first year at Kramer Middle School. His family had moved from the neighborhood a year earlier, said his paternal grandfather, John Ayala. When the shooting started, Davon was headed to a relative’s house near the cookout site to pick up ear buds and a cellphone charger while his mother waited in a car, Ayala said.
“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,’ ” said Kevin McGill, who coaches Davon’s team, the Metro Bengals. “These kids’ lives are being robbed over nothing.”
The circumstances surrounding the shooting were unclear, 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.
Davon’s death, and another fatal shooting outside a McDonald’s Saturday night in Southeast Washington, pushed to seven the number of people killed in the District in the first four days of July.
Eighty-nine people have been killed in the city this year — a 17 percent increase from this time last year, which ended with a decade-high number of killings. The 2019 homicide victims included 11-year-old Karon Brown, who would have been in Davon’s middle school class at Kramer.
“This class of students, the same class of students who had to deal with Karon last summer, have now lost Davon,” Kramer Principal Katreena Shelby said on Sunday. “It is astonishing and sad to witness the resiliency of the students I serve.”
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) tweeted that the shooting of Davon was “horrendous.” She said police were looking for a black sedan seen speeding down an alley near the Frederick Douglass Garden apartments, a complex named for the famed abolitionist and former slave who lived the last 17 years of his life in Anacostia.
A mother lost her 11 year old son to gun fire tonight. My thoughts and prayers go out to her and her family.
We need your help to find those responsible for his murder. Call 202-727-9099 or text 50411 if you have any information about this tragedy https://t.co/njPkQCSPm7
— Muriel Bowser (@MurielBowser) July 5, 2020
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…