Lawrence teen's death fuels mother's call to end gun violence • Kansas Reflector

LAWRENCE — Natasha Neal, a prominent Kansas activist, is channeling her grief into a renewed fight for justice and systemic change after her 17-year-old son, Isaiah Neal, was killed by gunfire on June 13.

Natasha Neal was the activist behind the 2020s Occupy the masses — a Black Lives Matter street protest in front of the Lawrence Police Department. She has been at the forefront of other protests, including those advocating charges against Rontarus Washington Jr. and Albert Wilson droppedShe also fights to end gun violence.

The night of Isaiah Neal's death, Lawrence police ordered Natasha Neal to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. After about an hour of driving, his daughter told him that Isaiah had been taken to Lawrence Memorial Hospital instead. When Natasha Neal arrived, the hospital was on lockdown. When she finally entered her son's hospital room, he was already dead.

“I don't want what I went through between the police and the hospital to happen to other parents,” said Natasha Neal. “They should never have to go through what I had to go through because of who I was.”

Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical Services, air ambulance services and hospitals control a patient's destination, according to Lawrence Police Department spokeswoman Laura McCabe.

“The initial plan was actually to transport the patient to KU, and it changed several times as the patient’s condition evolved,” McCabe said. “These situations are extremely fluid. Our officers’ intent is always to provide family members with the most reliable information they have at that time and update them as quickly as possible.”

Communication problems and hospital confinement prevented Natasha Neal from saying goodbye to her son. She wants to solve such problems for others.

“I want to stress one thing to hospitals: When Black people come into your hospitals and they are grieving and expressing their emotions, there is no reason to shut down,” Natasha Neal said. “There was no reason for this hospital to be closed. »

Isaiah's death will further fuel his mother's activism. She is already considering initiatives such as introducing an Isaiah law and creating a foundation in his memory.

Saturday afternoon, Natasha Neal hosted a balloon release for Isaiah Neal at Broken Arrow Park in Lawrence. It was to this park that Isaiah was taken by emergency services before being sent to Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

A cousin of Isaiah Neal attends the balloon release ceremony Saturday at Broken Arrow Park. Members of Isaiah Neal's family wore shirts showing their relationship with Isaiah Neal. (Grace Hills/Kansas Reflector)

Cortland Davis, who works with Natasha in her activism, was there.

“This is nothing new to us,” Davis said. “We have been attending the funerals of our loved ones since we were teenagers and died violently. I think right now is a time for reflection. What comes out of this?

Natasha Neal took advantage of the ball launch to ask for peace, alongside her lawyer. LaRonna Saunders.

“We are calling for a ceasefire between black and brown communities,” Saunders said. “Because we are the ones most affected. »

Natasha Neal and Saunders want to end all the drivers of violence. Natasha Neal has seen violence affecting young people more than ever before, with young people experiencing losses “one after another”.

Isaiah Neal had dealt with so much loss that he was about to enter therapy. “It’s not bad to get help,” he told his mother. Isaiah was killed before he could attend his first session.

Rontarus Washington Jr., one of the men Natasha Neal helped free from prison, and his son were at Isaiah's side the night he was killed. The two were as close as “brothers.” Washington Jr. was at Isaiah's side when he was shot.

“It really bothered me,” Washington said. “I took loss after loss after loss.”

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