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Black 16-year-old Ralph Yarl shot in the head by 84-year-old white man for Knocking on Door 

Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old boy in Kansas City, Missouri, was shot in the head Thursday night  on April 13, 2023, after knocking on the wrong door to pick up his brothers from a friend’s house. According to Yarl’s aunt, a man opened the door and shot him in the head once, and then shot him a second time after he fell to the ground. 

Yarl managed to run from the property and begged for help at three different homes before someone attended to him. He was rushed to the hospital Thursday night for life-threatening injuries and was released on Sunday to continue recovering at home. 

Clay County prosecutor Zachary Thompson identified the shooter as Andrew D. Lester, an 84-year-old white man. Prosecutors in Kansas City charged him on Monday with one count of first degree assault and one count of armed criminal action with a potential punishment of up to life in prison. A warrant was also issued for his arrest. Lester later turned himself in to the authorities Tuesday afternoon, a day after he was charged. He is now in police custody.

Police Chief Stacey Graves stated that the homeowner was initially taken into custody on Thursday for questioning, but was released after a 24-hour hold due to the need to obtain forensic evidence and a formal statement from the victim. This is despite the fact that a firearm was recovered from the crime scene. Chief Graves also said there was a potential self defense or “stand your ground” element that investigators were looking into, despite the fact that Yarl did not cross the threshold into the shooter’s home. 

Lester’s release sparked nationwide outrage as protesters called for his arrest and immediate accountability before the law. Public outrage over Kansas City officials’ delay in identifying and pressing charges against Lester comes at a time when gun violence, especially against unarmed black individuals in the US, has reached an all-time high. 

Yarl’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, stated in an interview with CNN on Monday that it is inescapable not to observe the racial dynamics in the case. “We can only imagine if the roles were reversed, and you had a black man shoot a 16-year-old white child for simply ringing his doorbell, and the police took him in for questioning and let him come home and sleep in his bed at night, how much outrage there would be in America,” Crump said.

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  • Sarah Katib

    Sarah Katib is a multi-platform journalist who specializes in writing and research on international affairs, contemporary social issues, and Muslim identity in the West.

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