Kyle McNeley loved to be around people. That’s who he was since he was a boy, his parents said.
More recently, the 29-year-old would roll his wheelchair along the street near his family’s Lakewood home to find people to be around.
Paralyzed on his right side, McNeley used his left foot and hand to propel himself backward, eventually getting on a bus and traveling to the Long Beach Towne Center or Downtown Long Beach depending on whom he wanted to see that day.
“Once he found out he could get on the bus for free, … there was just no stopping him,” his mom, Michelle McNeley, said.
Thursday night around 8 p.m., Kyle McNeley was pushing himself across Bellflower Boulevard near Harvey Way when a suspected drunk driver hit him, killing him, according to authorities.
The driver initially left the scene but returned when a motorcyclist who saw what happened, followed and urged him to go back, according to the motorcyclist, Mike Da Veiga.
Da Veiga said he told the driver the crash wasn’t his fault, saying McNeley had been crossing against a red light, but police arrested the man on suspicion of driving under the influence and hit-and-run. Police said they haven’t determined who had the green light.
The McNeley family left a small memorial with flowers in front of the Lakewood First United Methodist Church, which is on the block where Kyle McNeley was hit. And they hoped others who knew him would leave mementos too.
“Everyone knows Kyle in the area,” Michelle McNeley said.
People would see him around and would tell his family they talked to or saw him, she said. Even before he was in a wheelchair, he stood out, with his bright blonde hair and outgoing personality, she said.
Two years ago, he was paralyzed on his right side after a stroke. He was left unable to speak except for a few words. He stayed in a hospital for eight months before he was released, they said.
At first, his family tried to keep him home.
“He wouldn’t have that,” his dad, Kevin, said.
Through pictures and the words he could still say, Kyle McNeley would convey to his parents where he was planning to go. At first, it was just up and down the street; then he started branching out.
“The first time he went on the bus, I followed him. I was scared,” Michelle McNeley said. “It was terrifying for us the first time.”
Recently, he found his childhood best friend who had fallen on hard times and brought him home, Michelle McNeley said.
And he had a particular affinity for the homeless community and was friends with many of them in the area, often giving them things, according to his family.
“He was like that from a very young age,” Michelle McNeley said. “Ever since he was three years old and wanted me to buy a homeless man a hamburger.”
His younger sister, Kelsie, said they would play board games together after his stroke, picking up from when they used to play when she was little. He taught her how to play chess, though “neither of us was really good,” she said with a laugh.
After his stroke, his family said Kyle McNeley enjoyed having the Bible read out loud to him. Even though the family is not religious, they obliged, reading a few paragraphs at random out of an old King James Bible that was around the house.
To communicate, he often drew pictures of what he wanted, his family said.
They said his last drawing was two rectangles laid across each other on a bright yellow sticky note. He got the Bible and waved it at his parents, indicating he wanted a new one. They eventually realized he wanted an easier-to-read Bible, “without all the thees and thous,” according to the family.
“He drew this at 1:30 p.m., then went to physical therapy with his dad, then, after, he went on one of his adventures,” Michelle McNeley said.
While he was out, he was killed. The next day, his dad picked up a different translation of the Bible, an easier to read one, just for his son, even though he’d never open it.
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