By Alvin A. Reid
Originally appeared in St. Louis American
Family members of Ralph Yarl, the Kansas City youth who was shot twice by a white homeowner last Thursday after ringing his doorbell, say he is making “a miraculous recovery.”
While a lengthy recovery is expected, Yarl ventured out to a park with an attorney on Wednesday’s sunny morning. He spoke with President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday evening.
According to his family, Biden called the Yarl household and spoke with the wounded youth for about an hour.
“It was actually a beautiful, thoughtful, meaningful, compassionate conversation. [Biden] asked Ralph great questions about his musical background and shared stories about his own family playing similar instruments,” a relative posted on Instagram.
“Each day is different. He has a long road ahead. However, we are very thankful that he is still here with us. I’ve been taking the time to read the emails and comments to Ralph. It warms our hearts to see him smile at all the kind words.”
Andrew Lester, 84, was scheduled for a Wednesday arraignment on charges of assault in the first degree, which could carry a life sentence. He is also charged with armed criminal action, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
Lester is accused of shooting Yarl when the teenager arrived at Lester’s home by mistake the evening of April 14.
What an indictment of the racism in our country and the reckless gun laws in our state that a Black teenager ringing a doorbell is perceived to be a threat that must be met with deadly force.TISHAURA JONE, KANSAS CITY MAYOR
Yarl was supposed to pick up his siblings from 115th Terrace. Instead, he went to 115th Street, where Lester lived. Lester reportedly answered the door when Yarl knocked or rang the doorbell.
He then allegedly shot Yarl once in the head and shot him again after he fell onto the ground. Yarl was shot just above the left eye and in the upper right arm. Yarl reportedly went to several households for help before someone lent him some assistance and called for help.
Lester allegedly used a .32-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver to shoot Yarl through a glass door, according to a probable cause statement by police.
Reaction has come swiftly from Black leaders in Kansas City, Missouri and throughout America and the world.
“What an indictment of the racism in our country and the reckless gun laws in our state that a Black teenager ringing a doorbell is perceived to be a threat that must be met with deadly force,” Mayor Tishaura Jones said in a statement.
“It’s yet another devastating reminder of the bigotry Black children face, and the fear Black parents wrestle with daily. I am thankful to see charges filed in this case.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade blamed “Missouri Republicans’ extreme gun laws that have established a culture of fear.”
“Fear that turns neighbors against each other and causes people to see every situation as us versus them or Black versus white. Too often, Black lives suffer the most from this fear-driven, shoot-first culture.
“Ralph Yarl was almost another fatality of the dangerous gun laws that get Missourians killed every day. The madness has to stop.”
State Reps. Ashley Aune, D-Kansas City; Jamie Johnson, D-Kansas City; Maggie Nurrenbern, D-Kansas City; and Eric Woods, D-Kansas City released the following joint statement on the felony charges filed by Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zach Thompson.
And while we may want to think that race did not play a factor, it is naive to assume that a white teenager in the same situation would face the same violence.MISSOURI STATE REPS STATE REPS. ASHLEY AUNE, JAMIE JOHNSON, MAGGIE NURRENBERN, D-KANSAS CITY, AND ERIC WOODS
“Ralph Yarl is an outstanding young citizen: a terrific student, a talented musician, and a good friend, brother, and son. But regardless of who he is and what he’s accomplished in his young life, no one should have to suffer the gruesome and senseless act of violence Ralph did last Thursday.
“And while we may want to think that race did not play a factor, it is naive to assume that a white teenager in the same situation would face the same violence. This is a time when we must be willing to have hard conversations about racism in this country and, sadly, in our communities. We stand with the Black community and everyone crying out for justice.”
The Missouri NAACP has scheduled a press conference and rally at the Clay County Prosecutor’s office at 4 p.m. Friday.
“Missouri’s culture of death has persisted far too long,” Nimrod Chapel, Missouri NAACP president said in a statement.
“The police are not treating this case in the same way Black people accused of murder are treated. A Black suspect would be in jail. We know that many of you share the same anger, fear, and frustration that the attempted murderer, who is Caucasian, has not been charged with a hate crime nor the attempted murder of a child who may be injured for life.”
CBS News quoted several legal experts who believe Lester’s lawyers will claim self-defense under Missouri’s “stand your ground” law, which allows for the use of deadly force if a person fears for his or her life.
Robert Spitzer, a professor emeritus of political science at the State University of New York, Cortland, said the Missouri law provides “wide latitude for people to use lethal force.”
CBS also interviewed St. Louis defense attorney Nina McDonnell, who said prosecutors have a strong case but called the “stand your ground” defense “a huge hurdle.”