A man accused of being involved in the murder of an 11-year-old boy during a July 4 shooting in Washington, D.C., was released due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The case adds to a growing concern among law enforcement that coronavirus policies have caused the recent uptick in crime in many major U.S. cities.
Davon McNeal, 11, had attended a “peace cookout” in Southeast D.C. when five men entered the area and some of them began shooting, killing McNeal. Two of the suspects have been arrested, and three are still at large. Authorities believe the suspects were involved in a firefight against a rival gang, and McNeal was caught in the crossfire.
One of the arrested suspects, Christian Wingfield, was released from jail on May 22 after a May 14 emergency motion for his release was filed because of the coronavirus pandemic, local media reports. His request for release was initially denied, but it was eventually granted due to a minimal criminal history, familial ties to the District, and a low risk to the community.
He was being held for Felon in Possession of a Firearm and Possession of a Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device.
Police say he was under pre-trial high-intensity supervision with a curfew and GPS monitoring, but his monitor was later found with the strap removed and discarded.
The incident is among a growing list of cases involving re-offending criminals who had been released to protect jail populations from the COVID-19 virus.
In April, a man with an extensive, violent criminal history was released from prison due to COVID-19 and then arrested one day later in connection to a murder.
Earlier this year in New York, inmates who were released from Rikers Island started committing crimes shortly after their release.
“I think it’s unconscionable just on a human level that folks were shown mercy and this is what some of them have done,” New York Mayor Bill De Blasio said at the time.
Since then, crime rates have spiked in many major American cities, and police groups are voicing concerns that coronavirus policies are partially to blame.
The Police Executive Research Forum found that crime rates in Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New York and Las Vegas have spiked since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the reopening of the country.
“Jurisdictions released many offenders in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in jails. And courts in many places have been closed. That has led to a feeling among offenders that they can commit crimes with impunity. In addition, police in some cities are less proactive in their enforcement, in order to avoid interactions with the public that could spread the virus,” the report said.
Along with Christian Wingfield, police arrested Daryle Bond on Thursday. Two more named suspects, Marcel Gordon and Carlo General, are still at large. Police say a fifth suspect was involved, but that person has not been named.