The Ralph Yarl Case: Families Sue in Shooting of Black Teen in Kansas City

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

The teenager, Ralph Yarl, 16, was hospitalized with two gunshot wounds, including one to the head, according to their family and lawyers. They said he had been sent to pick up his twins at a friend's house on Thursday night, 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 without charge, although police say the case is still under investigation. On Sunday, family members joined hundreds of demonstrators who marched to the house where Ralph was shot, calling for justice. local news station reported.

“We recognize the frustration this can cause in the entire criminal justice process,” Chief Stacey Graves of the Kansas City Police Department said in a press conference on Sunday as the protests got underway. “I recognize the racial component of this case and I recognize and understand the community's concerns.”

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

“You've heard of driving during Black,” said Mr. Lucas. “You have heard about all the other problems that black people face in life. Can you not knock on the door when it's Black? It's almost like you can't exist.

He said he would be pushing for “a swift conclusion from at least the start of the investigation,” and would urge the Police Department to share evidence with the Clay County district attorney's office.

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

Most details about the shooting come from family members and their lawyers, Ben Crump and S. Lee Merritt. “There is no reason to acquit this armed and dangerous suspect after admitting to shooting an unarmed, non-threatening and defenseless teenager who rang his doorbell,” the lawyers wrote in a joint statement on Sunday.

Mr. Crump linked to a fundraising page started by Ralph's aunt Faith Spoonmore, who wrote that his niece, a junior high school student, didn't have her cell phone with her when she went to pick up her brother.

“He mistakenly went to the wrong house a block from the house where his siblings were,” he wrote. Kansas City Star and other local media outlets reported that Ralph intended to go to the address on Northeast 115th Terrace and instead rang the doorbell at the address on Northeast 115th Street.

He said his nephew stopped in the driveway and rang the doorbell and that the man who came to the door shot Ralph in the head. Police did not say where Ralph was injured.

“My nephew fell to the ground, and the man shot him again,” Ms. spoonmore. “Ralph was then able to get up and run to a neighbour's house, looking for help. Unfortunately, he had to run to three different houses before someone finally agreed to help him after he was told to lie on the ground with his arms up.”

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

The man who opened fire was released after being held for the maximum 24-hour period allowed without charge under the state's criminal investigations statute, the chief said at a news conference.

Chief Graves also said there was an element of “potential” self-defence or “defence” that was being examined by investigators. He did not say how many times the teenager had been shot.

Mr. Lucas, the mayor, said that Enforce Missouri Fundamental Lawsadopted in 2016, should not apply in this case.

“If Stand Your Ground actually lets someone shoot someone who rings a doorbell,” he said, “it puts the life of every postal worker, every campaigner, every Amazon deliveryman in this country at risk.”

Detectives are continuing to look into the case for prosecutors to review, the chief said. Ralph is expected to provide an official statement to investigators when his injuries permit, he said.

William Lamb reporting contribution.