After the death of her 11-year-old son, a DC mother tries to help children heal

Davon McNeal was fatally shot on July 4, 2020. Now his mother has said she needs more support from the community to help her and her friends heal.

WASHINGTON- Editor’s Note: The video above is from July 2020.

It’s been two years since 11-year-old Davon McNeal was gunned down at a 4th of July barbecue in 2020. But it’s still a daily struggle to move forward.

“It feels like it happened yesterday,” Davon’s mother, Crystal McNeal, said in an interview with WUSA9.

She had always been his biggest fan – watching his football games, buying him custom cleats, celebrating the good grades he kept earning.

“He was going to graduate — he would have been in ninth grade this year when he was 13. He wanted to go to college and he was going to play for the NFL,” she said. “And take care of his family and buy his mother a house.”

Now those dreams are immortalized in Crystal McNeal’s basement – a celebration of her son filled with photos, murals, football shirts and even a helmet Washington commanders gave her last year .

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“My best friend. That’s how close we were,” said Davon McNeal’s younger brother, Kevon McNeal.

Kevon McNeal, now 11, told WUSA9 in an interview that he lived in fear the same thing would happen to himself or other family members and friends.

“It’s like sometimes I don’t like going out because [there could be] shootings and all that,” he said.

In fact, the CDC recently released data showing that guns were the number one killer of children in 2020, a number including the death of Davon McNeal.

On July 4, 2020, the 11-year-old ran into a southeast DC home to grab a phone charger. He and his family had spent the day at an anti-violence barbecue his mother had organized.

Crystal McNeal had remained in the car with some of her other children when the group heard gunshots and ducked down.

She rushed out of her car to check on Davon and saw her son lying on the ground.

At first she thought he was just flayed and would be fine, but then she found out the truth at the hospital.

“I kept saying ‘Davon wake up.’ He won’t move. And, I’m starting to feel on his body. I always played with his feet. I started touching his feet and everything was cold,” Crystal McKneal said. “And I was just starting to asking doctors ‘why is his body cold?’ Then I knew my baby was gone.

RELATED: Washington Football Team to Honor Black Lives Matter, Davon McNeal in Season Opener

His kids said they didn’t expect the violence to stop in DC

“A lot of children need help. I get phone calls around 3am, I get DMs asking me when will they be alright? said Crystal McNeal. “And, I don’t have the words for them because I don’t know when it will.”

Instead of words, she planned a getaway to Florida for her kids and some of Davon McNeal’s friends.

“It was awesome,” said Davon McNeal’s half-brother Kaliek Lawson, 14.

Kevon McNeal said that’s where he feels safest – in Florida.

Crystal McNeal said she was doing what she could, but it was a lot to take on on her own.

I’m still in the same community doing the work where I lost my child, and I’m not getting the help and support that you think I should be getting,” she said.

She said authorities and neighbors needed to step in to care for these children – and her.

“We need more recreation centers for young people,” she said. “We absolutely need mental health support for children, and they know it too.”

As she works to raise DC’s children, she leans on Davon’s memorabilia-covered walls for support.

Crystal McNeal believes her biggest fan, Davon McNeal, is standing guard as she strives to make a difference in the lives of others who are grieving.

“I’m still here to do the job, just because I don’t want to see another kid go,” she said.

Crystal then focuses on a foundation she is building in honor of her late son.

First and foremost, she plans to offer mental health services, connecting children with trauma therapists. She also wants to create a center where children can play sports and do crafts as a sanctuary in the city.

At the same time, she is still fighting for justice for her son’s death.

Four men have pleaded guilty to her murder, but she is unhappy with the proposed length of their sentences – all less than 20 years.

Crystal McNeal said she and her son Davon know all of those charged. She said she had worked to help them stay on track.

They are expected to be sentenced in June and Crystal McNeal plans to be there to plead longer.

“The time they give to these guys isn’t fair,” she said. “We are not the ones pulling the trigger. They were the ones who pulled the trigger and took the life of someone who looked up to them all.

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