D.C. police on Thursday arrested a suspect in the fatal shooting of Davon McNeal, the 11-year-old boy who was struck in the head by a bullet fired at a Fourth of July stop-the-violence cookout in Anacostia, according to authorities.
News of the arrest came as hundreds prepared to gather for a vigil Thursday night in the neighborhood where Davon was killed.
In an interview after the vigil, Davon’s mother, Crystal McNeal, said news of one arrest brought some comfort, but she wants investigators to find the actual perpetrators, not just make an arrest.
“Get the right ones. Not just any arrest,” McNeal said. “I have confidence they will get the right ones.”
Davon’s grandfather, John Ayala, joined the District’s police chief and mayor in announcing the arrest. “Right now, I’m filled with joy,” he said earlier Thursday.
“The police did a great job. The mayor did a great job. The community did a great job.” He added: “Of course, I’m sad, because I lost my grandson.”
Police Chief Peter Newsham said all three of the suspects being sought have arrest records, two of them with felony convictions. The chief said two of the men have pending gun cases and had been released as they await trials.
One, Newsham said, was on high-intensity monitoring and was wearing a GPS tracking device.
“If they had any sense of civility, they would turn themselves in,” Newsham said, adding that he has repeatedly warned about violent offenders who he feels don’t get adequate jail time.
Some offenders, the chief said, “have a history of picking up firearms and using them. They did it again, as we have warned, and now these guys have taken the life of an 11-year-old.”
The suspects being sought were identified as Carlo General, 19, and Marcel Gordon, 25, both of Southeast Washington, and Christian Wingfield, 22, of Hillcrest Heights, Md. All are charged in warrants with first-degree murder, police said.
Police said they were searching for a fifth person but had not obtained an arrest warrant for that person.
Newsham declined to discuss a possible motive, but he said “the little boy was not the target.”
The shooting occurred at about 9:20 p.m. in the 1400 block of Cedar Street SE. Davon, a standout football player going into the seventh grade, collapsed in front of the Frederick Douglass Community Center. Police arrived to find the boy dying in his mother’s arms.
The boy’s killing, which came amid a surge of violence in the District, spurred family and community members to march in the street in outrage. Davon was among 11 people fatally shot in the city in the first week of July.
Davon had been with his mother at the cookout in the Cedar Gardens apartment complex in Southeast Washington. He was hit as he went to a relative’s residence to get ear buds and a cellphone charger.
His mother had organized the cookout as part of her work for the District as a violence interrupter, trying to persuade young men and teenagers to put down their guns.
A year earlier, McNeal, who had recently moved out of Cedar Gardens, had negotiated a cease-fire after taking a dozen young men to a retreat on the Eastern Shore.
But violence continued. A week before Davon was killed, video surveillance captured two men opening fire on Cedar Street with assault-style rifles. No one was hit.
Since Davon’s killing, relatives, friends and community members have held rallies and nightly walks through Anacostia, and a vigil was scheduled for Thursday evening. A six-mile walk is planned for Saturday from Birchleaf Park in Seat Pleasant, near the family’s new home in Maryland, to Cedar Street in Southeast Washington.
As she announced the arrest, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said she was “heartbroken and outraged” by Davon’s death.
“He should be doing all the things that little boys do in the summer,” the mayor said.
Davon’s maternal grandfather, Tony Lawson, 56, said he is not sure whether his daughter will return to her job.
“She has good days; she has bad days,” Lawson said in an interview this week.
Davon had been devoted to football and played for the Metro Bengals. He was excited about the season starting, and his last conversation with Lawson was about the sport.
“He said, ‘Football practice is starting — are you going to be there?’ ” Lawson recalled. “I said, ‘Yes, I will be there.’ ”
Ayala, Davon’s paternal grandfather and a founding member of the D.C. chapter of the Guardian Angels, has been out front at rallies and marches. He has live-streamed many of them on Facebook.
During a march Tuesday night through Anacostia, speakers screamed through bullhorns for people to come forward if they knew anything about the shooting.
“Somebody knows something around here,” the cry went. “Turn yourself in.”
Marchers held up their hands displaying three fingers — for the No. 3 Davon wore on his football jersey.
One of the organizers, Scott Rico, told the crowd, “It took a lot of noise to take that boy away from us.”
He urged marchers to make even more noise and wake people up along their two-hour march through the community.
“Turn your lights on,” people screamed as they marched by dark rowhouses. “No justice, no sleep.”
At Thursday night’s vigil, those gathered raised three fingers in the air, again representing his jersey number. Among the apartment buildings on Cedar Street was a sea of black and orange, the colors of his football team.
Dozens in the crowd wore T-shirts and masks demanding “Justice for Davon” or “Justice for Day-Day,” his nickname.
The crowd held black and orange balloons and No. 3 balloons, which were released into the air after a moment of silence.
His teammates, classmates and neighborhood friends tearfully spoke before the crowd, often describing how they learned of the tragic news that shattered their childhood friendship.
But each of them vowed never to forget him.
Nyeem Woods, 11, said he had known Davon so long as a friend that he considered him family. The two friends often discussed their dreams of making it to the National Football League and becoming teammates as professionals.
Nyeem said news of Davon’s killing at the hands of older men opened his eyes to the dangers of his city and left a mark that will remain with him forever.
“The night I found out Davon was killed, I couldn’t sleep,” he said. “Every time I think about Davon, my stomach twisted up in knots. From now on, I plan to do everything for him.
“Long live Davon.”
In an interview, McNeal said she still is unaware of what led to her son’s killing but said she had no plans to attend a court hearing in the immediate future.
“I feel good right now, but my heart will always be broken,” McNeal said in an interview.
“We are never going to be okay.”