Ralph Yarl Case: Family Calls for Charges in Shooting of Black Teenager in Kansas City

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The shooting of a Black teenager who rang the wrong doorbell at a house in Kansas City, Mo., last week led to calls over the weekend for the police to file charges against the white homeowner who opened fire, critically injuring him.

The teenager, Ralph Yarl, 16, was hospitalized with two gunshot wounds, including one to the head, according to his family and their lawyers. They said he had been sent to pick up his younger twin brothers at a friend’s house on Thursday evening but mistakenly went to the wrong house about a block away.

The man who shot him was taken into custody, held for 24 hours and released with no charges, although the police said the case was still under investigation. On Sunday, family members joined hundreds of demonstrators who marched to the house where Mr. Yarl was shot, calling for justice, local news stations reported.

“We recognize the frustration this can cause in the entire criminal justice process,” Chief Stacey Graves of the Kansas City Police Department said at a news conference on Sunday while a protest was happening. “I do recognize the racial components of this case and I do recognize and understand the community’s concern.”

The mayor, Quinton Lucas, who is Black, said in an interview on Monday that he was “heartbroken and angry about the situation that we find ourselves in.”

“You’ve heard about driving while Black,” Mr. Lucas said. “You’ve heard about all the other issues that Black people confront in life. Can you not knock on the door while Black? It’s almost like you can’t exist.”

He said he would encourage “an expeditious conclusion of at least the beginning of an investigation,” and would urge the Police Department to share evidence with the Clay County prosecuting attorney’s office.

Police, prosecutors, lawyers and family members did not respond on Monday morning to requests for more details about the investigation and Mr. Yarl’s current condition.

Most of the details about the shooting have come from family members and their lawyers, Ben Crump and S. Lee Merritt. “There can be no excuse for the release of this armed and dangerous suspect after admitting to shooting an unarmed, nonthreatening and defenseless teenager that rang his doorbell,” the lawyers wrote in a joint statement on Sunday.

Mr. Crump linked to a fund-raising page started by Mr. Yarl’s aunt, Faith Spoonmore, who wrote that her nephew, a high school junior, did not have his phone with him when he went to get his brothers.

“He mistakenly went to the wrong house, one block away from the house where his siblings were,” she wrote. The Kansas City Star and other local media outlets reported that Mr. Yarl intended to go to an address on Northeast 115th Terrace and ended up at an address on Northeast 115th Street instead.

Ms. Spoonmore said that her nephew pulled into the driveway and rang the doorbell and that the man who came to the door shot Mr. Yarl in the head. The police did not say where Mr. Yarl was wounded.

“My nephew fell to the ground, and the man shot him again,” Ms. Spoonmore wrote. “Ralph was then able to get up and run to the neighbor’s house, looking for help. Unfortunately, he had to run to three different homes before someone finally agreed to help him after he was told to lie on the ground with his hands up.”

Chief Graves said the police were called to the scene at about 10 p.m. During the news conference, an investigator declined to say whether it was the homeowner who had called 911.

The man who opened fire was released after being held for the maximum 24-hour period allowed without charges under state law in a felony investigation, the chief said at the news conference.

Chief Graves also said that there was a “potential” self-defense or “stand your ground” element that investigators were examining. She did not say how many times the teenager had been shot.

Mr. Lucas, the mayor, said that Missouri’s Stand Your Ground law, which was adopted in 2016, should not apply in this case.

“If Stand Your Ground really lets somebody just shoot somebody that rings a doorbell,” he said, “that puts the life of every postal worker, every campaigner, every Amazon delivery person at risk in this country.”

Detectives are continuing to look into the case for Clay County prosecutors to review, the chief said. Mr. Yarl is expected to give a formal statement to investigators when his injuries allow, she said.

William Lamb contributed reporting.

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