Ralph Yarl, a Black 16-year-old boy from Kansas, Missouri, was shot after he mistakenly rang the wrong doorbell according to Kansas City Police. On the night of Thursday, April 13th, Yarl was supposed to pick up his siblings around 10:30 pm from a house on 115th Terrace. However, Yarl accidentally rang the doorbell at 115th Street, leading to his shooting. The teenager suffered life-threatening injuries, being shot twice with one bullet hitting him in the head and the other bullet hitting him in the arm. He was rushed to the hospital and, at the time of writing, is reportedly in stable condition.
According to reports, 84-year-old Andrew Lester, the homeowner and suspect in the shooting, was taken into police custody but were released after 24 hours. Lester, who is white, was released because according to Missouri state law, a person can only be held for 24 hours before police are required to charge or release them.
On Tuesday, April 18th, Lester turned himself in to the Kansas City Police. He is being charged with two felony accounts, assault in the first degree and armed criminal action. He was released a few hours after turning himself in after posting 10% of his $200,000 bail.
Initially, Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said that the police were still carrying out an investigation and would place the matter before the prosecutors as soon as the investigation was complete. Graves said that before an investigation is completed, forensic evidence would have to be collected. The victim of the crime would have to give a statement as well. She said that while the majority of felony suspects are released after 24 hours, many are arrested once enough evidence is accumulated. The weapon used in the shooting was taken in as evidence while the shooting was deemed a case of mistaken identity.
Police Chief Graves was asked if the shooting could have been racially motivated, to which she said, “The information that we have now, it does not say that it is racially motivated. That’s still an active investigation. But as a chief of police, I do recognize the racial components of this case.”
“We recognize the frustration this can cause with the entire criminal justice process,” Graves said. “As soon as the case is complete, it will be presented to the Clay County prosecutors for their review.”
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said nothing was being done to undermine the shooting and that the Kansas City Police Department was paying full attention to it. Lucas added, “As a parent, I certainly feel for the mother of the victim and others in the family. My heart goes out to them.”
Yarl’s family has hired well-regarded civil rights lawyers, Lee Merritt and Ben Crump. The two lawyers announced on Sunday, April 16th that they would be representing the family. They criticized the manner in which the authorities had approached the case, specifically referring to the fact that the suspected shooter had been released. “There can be no excuse for the release of this armed and dangerous suspect after admitting to shooting an unarmed, non-threatening, and defenseless teenager that rang his doorbell,” Merritt and Crump said in a joint statement.
The statement continues, “We demand swift action from Clay County prosecutors and law enforcement to identify, arrest, and prosecute to the full extent of the law the man responsible for this horrendous and unjustifiable shooting.”
Crump previously worked on George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s cases.
The state of Missouri has the “Stand-Your-Ground” law which says a shooter defending life or property does not have to retreat before taking action. Crump said that ringing the wrong doorbell cannot be used as justification to shoot at a person.
Protests have erupted following the shooting of Yarl, with hundreds of people taking to the streets on Sunday, April 16th, with signs saying “Justice for Ralph” and “Black Lives Matter.” The march opened with a prayer, with one of the organizers saying, “We are praying for healing for Ralph. We want to open the eyes of Kansas City to this injustice.”
A GoFundMe has been created by a member of Yarl’s family in an effort to raise funds to cover his medical expenses. At the time of reporting, almost $1 million dollars has been raised for Yarl’s medical expenses and recovery. To support Yarl, visit https://gofund.me/b68601b2
On the GoFundMe page, Yarl is described as a “fantastic kid.” He is the section leader in his school’s marching band, playing the bass clarinet. Yarl is also a member of the Technology Student Association and the Science Olympiad Team. He plays the bass clarinet in the marching band, jazz band, and competition band and is regarded as one of the best bass clarinetists in Missouri.
Yarl shared his hopes of attending Texas A&M University for Chemical Engineering. He was reportedly excited to graduate high school and take a trip to West Africa before beginning his college career. Yarl’s friends and teachers describe him as well-mannered, kind, smart, and always willing to help.