Updated Apr 19, 2023 - Politics & Policy

What we know about the shooting of Ralph Yarl

Kansas City Skyline at dusk with traffic and streaked lights and car trails. Photo: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A Black teenager was shot last week in Kansas City, Missouri, after he mistakenly rang the doorbell at the wrong house to pick up his siblings, attorneys for the teenager and his family said.

The big picture: Andrew Lester, a white man in his 80s, allegedly shot 16-year-old Ralph Yarl in the head and the arm through a glass door, per Clay County prosecutor Zachary Thompson, who noted that the teen did not appear to have crossed the threshold into the house.

The latest: Lester pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action in connection to the shooting.

Of note: When asked by a reporter, Thompson alleged there was a "racial component to the case," but declined to provide details or say whether his office would bring hate crime charges.

  • Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said Sunday initial information did "not say that it's racially motivated," but it's "an active investigation" and added: "I do recognize the racial components of this case."
  • Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Lee Merrit, who are representing Yarl and his family, said in a statement that Yarl was "alive and recovering," after the shooting.
  • The assault charge is a class A felony, which carries up to 30 years or life in prison and is the highest-level offense in Missouri.

What we know about the shooting

Kansas City Police said during a news conference Sunday that police were called to a residence just before 10pm on April 13, where a teen was shot in front of the residence by a homeowner.

  • Police said he was shot twice and struck in the head and arm by a white male.
  • The teenager was taken to a local hospital for his injuries, but has since been released.
  • Lester was taken in custody after surrendering to police on Tuesday and was released later in the day after posting bond, per the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.

According to a GoFundMe page organized by Faith Spoonmore, who said she's Yarl's aunt, the teenager mistakenly went to the wrong house, one block away from where he was supposed to pick up his younger brothers.

  • A spokesperson for GoFundMe verified the fundraiser for Ralph Yarl on Monday.

Outrage after the shooting

Demonstrators gathered in Kansas City after the shooting, demanding action against the suspected shooter and showing support for Yarl's family, per the Kansas City Star.

  • Protesters who gathered on Sunday outside the house where Yarl was shot called for hate crime charges to be issued against the suspect, per KCUR.
  • "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!" attorneys for Yarl said.

What we know about Ralph Yarl

Spoonmore wrote on the GoFundMe page that Yarl is a member of the Technology Student Association Science Olympia Team and the jazz and competition bands.

  • Yarl's mom, Cleo Nagbe, said Tuesday on "CBS Mornings" that the "residual effect" of the shooting is going to stay with her son for "quite a while."
  • Yarl is able to communicate "when he feels like it," she said, but "mostly, he just sits there and stares and the buckets of tears just rolls down his eyes," Nagbe said.
  • "You can see that he is just replaying the situation over and over again."
  • "Even though [Yarl] is doing well physically, he has a long road ahead mentally and emotionally," Spoonmore wrote.
  • "The trauma that he has to endure and survive is unimaginable."
  • Spoonmore did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional details throughout.

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