- The Washington Times - Monday, July 6, 2020

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Monday said the city is plagued by another epidemic besides the coronavirus — the “sense of hopelessness of kids with guns that will kill other kids” — after three people, including an 11-year-old boy, were fatally shot in the District over the Fourth of July weekend.

“We are dealing with a response to a health pandemic, to demonstrations brought on by outrage of an American being killed on the streets, representative of other Americans killed on the streets, and now we see our kids killing each other over what?” Miss Bowser said Monday at a press conference. “I guarantee when they find out what this is about, it’s going to be about nothing. It’s going to be about absolutely nothing.”

Davon McNeal, 11, was shot dead at around 9:20 p.m. Saturday in the 1400 block of Cedar Street SE, said Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham, adding that officers arrived on the scene to find Crystal McNeal, Davon’s mom, holding him in her arms.

Delbert McFadden, executive director of the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, said Davon was killed after attending a community cookout organized in part by the community and violence interrupters, including Davon’s mom, who is a contracted violence interrupter with the city. Mr. McFadden said he met with Davon, who was helping his mom with the cookout, just an hour before he was killed.

Chief Newsham said there is no evidence to suggest that Davon was killed because of his mother’s work as a violence interrupter and investigators already have made progress.

The police department is offering an award of $25,000 to anyone who has information on Davon’s killing that will lead to an arrest.

Shortly after Davon’s killing, Antonio Gardner, 36, of Oxon Hill, was killed at a McDonald’s in the 1500 block of Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

Chief Newsham said police believe fireworks were shot off inside the McDonalds where Mr. Gardner was a patron, and when he went outside to see what was going on, he was shot and then taken to a hospital, where he died.

At 11 p.m. Friday, a dispute about how a car was parked in the 1900 block of 18th Street SE resulted in two gunmen opening fire on the vehicle, police said. Jordyn Simmons, 25, of Hyattsville, was shot and taken to a hospital, where she died.

Chief Newsham said Ms. Simmons was not the intended target.

“When people are so raw and emotional and hurt, not just Crystal, not just Davon’s mother, but people are hurting when they see a child senselessly killed in our city. They want answers, sometimes people want revenge, which we are also very concerned about, people want it just to stop,” Miss Bowser said. “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, have a child of a violence interrupter killed, so are you suggesting to me that there is some magic answer that’s reflected in my budget? I wish there were,” the mayor said after being asked about how her budget cuts for violence interrupter programs.

On Tuesday, the D.C. Council will take its first vote on the nearly $17 billion fiscal 2021 budget, which includes a $15 million cut to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and a term limit for the police chief.

The cuts to MPD’s budget will reduce the department’s force by about 200 officers over the next year, council Chairman Phil Mendeslon, at-large Democrat, said at a separate press conference.

Miss Bowser said after tragedies, such as Davon’s slaying, neighborhoods will still look to police to respond, regardless if the budget is cut, but there will be fewer officers available to respond.

“There is a tension that is at work and that tension is between a great number of citizens who argue we are over policing our communities, you all know this to ‘defund police’, and the need to ensure that we have adequate public safety,” Mr. Mendelson said. “So the committee struck a balance.”

The chairman said if the reduction is too great or too small, the issue can be revisited.

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