A police officer drives past the house Monday, April 17, 2023, where 16-year-old Ralph Yarl was shot InternationalIndiaAfricaRalph Paul Yarl, 16, was shot after ringing the doorbell of a house on the 1100 block of NE 115th Street in Kansas City, Missouri, at around 10 p.m. on Thursday. The teen was attempting to pick up his younger siblings at a house with the same number on the 1100 block of NE 115th Terrace, about a block away.Missouri’s Clay County Prosecutor’s Office announced on Monday that two charges were filed against a suspect over the April 13 shooting of Ralph Yarl, who was shot after he mistakenly rang the wrong doorbell.Filed charges – both felonies – include assault in the first degree and armed criminal action. The suspect was identified as Andrew Lester.The 80-year-old white man who allegedly shot the 16-year-old teen who rang his doorbell after mistaking his residence for a different house a block away was earlier released on Friday, 24 hours after the shooting, leading to social media outrage and a weekend protest in front of the house where the teen was shot.Yarl, whose teacher said he plans to study chemical engineering in college, is a high school junior. He was also a band section leader, played multiple instruments for the youth orchestra and was an honorable mention in Missouri’s All-State Band for the brass clarinet. His goal is to attend Texas A&M where he hopes to be accepted through either an academic or musical scholarship.While the race, name and age of the alleged shooter have not been released, US media reported that property records, police statements and detention records identified him as an 80-year-old white man. The outlet at the time withheld his name and complete address because he had not yet been charged with a crime.Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump and Lee Merritt announced in a joint statement they will be representing Yarl’s family and criticized the quick release of the suspect.
“There can be no excuse for the release of this armed and dangerous suspect,” the pair said.
Police Chief Stacey Graves says the suspect was released because 24 hours was the longest amount of time they can hold a felony suspect without charges. Graves says her department is gathering evidence “as expeditiously and as thoroughly as we can,” and will present the case to Clay County prosecutors for review as soon as possible. A gun was confiscated at the scene and is being held as evidence.Media reports suggest Yarl was released from the hospital on Sunday after spending three days in the hospital. He is being cared for by his mother who works as a nurse.Graves says that at present there is no evidence that the shooting was racially motivated but that she understands the community’s concerns. “[T]he information that we have now, it does not say that that is racially motivated. That’s still an active investigation. But as a chief of police, I do recognize the racial components of this case,” she said.Crump said the case would be perceived differently if the races of the two individuals were reversed. “It is inescapable not to observe the racial dynamics here,” said Crump. “If the roles were reversed, how much outrage would there be in America?”
Prosecutors will have to consider Missouri’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows shooters to defend their lives or property without retreat. The 2016 law requires that the shooter have reason to believe “that such deadly force is necessary to protect himself or herself” or a third person.
It also allows shooters to use deadly force against “a person who unlawfully enters, remains after unlawfully entering or attempts to unlawfully enter private property that is owned or leased by” the shooter.
In a tweet on Sunday, Crump claimed Yarl rang the doorbell of the wrong house, which would not likely be considered an attempt to unlawfully enter a residence but the case may depend on what happened after Yarl rang the doorbell and he was shot. Yarl’s testimony will be critical in the investigation.A GoFundMe drive has been set up to help Yarl’s family with medical expenses, at press time it has exceeded $1.6 million.