The Injustice Ralph Yarl Faced


LexieBee Photography

Noah Wulf

Lillian Campbell, Ads Editor

A shooting in Kansas City on April 13 sent an innocent 16-year-old to the hospital. The circumstances of the attack are unclear, and subject to intense scrutiny.

ABC summarizes that an 85-year-old man named Andrew Lester was charged with felony assault in the first degree and one of armed criminal action. Andrew Lester was reported to have shot a 16-year-old at his front door. The charges were filed days later after media attention.

Dr. Novak, professor of criminal justice and criminology at UMKC, commented “He answered the door and shot him,” while explaining the attack.

The reports on the story suggest that Lester had little to no care for the young boy’s life. This also highlights questions in regard to self-defense, and whether or not there is something more sinister going on.

ABC reveals that Yarl only approached the house due to mistaking the address for a house he was picking his siblings up from. This highlights how a simple mistake can go wrong very quickly.

According to ABC, Yarl reported to police that he “ran away to keep from being shot” and that the attacker said, “Don’t come around here.” This statement raises questions about the attacker’s intentions.

Dr. Novak states “There was no verbal confrontation” which raises suspicion if the shooter actually felt threatened. The attacker reportedly did not ask any questions about the young man at the door, and Yarl reportedly did not say anything or threaten anybody.

Revealed by NBC, Yarl got the streets confused while trying to pick up his 11-year-old twin brothers and was shot twice after ringing the doorbell according to his attorneys Lee Merrit and Ben Crump. Many people were under the impression that Ralph knocked on the door but he simply rang the doorbell which continues to raise suspicion of what the attacker’s true intentions might have been, leaving much up to speculation.

NBC shares that Yarl is an honors student in mostly college-level classes who loves playing in the school band according to his superintendent Dan Clemens. Ralph Yarl has many people, including his superintendent, that testify to his character.

Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney, shared live and reported to ABC “To shoot a teenager just for ringing your doorbell cannot be the message that we send to society.” Ben Crump highlights how cruel this situation would be if the man is not charged.

AP News revealed Yarl ran to multiple homes while bleeding before reaching someone who helped him.  The circumstances bring to light a question: If the shooter did this in self-defense, why were the authorities not called?

AP News informs the assault charges could lead to a life sentence and the armed criminal action penalty can range from 3 to 15 years in prison. Lester was not charged with a hate crime. The lack of a hate crime charge is scrutinized by many. 

When asked about the case and the charges Dr. Novak admits “Missouri is well known for relaxed gun laws,” which might play a role in the charges given to the attacker, implying the case could look much different in other states. 

According to AP News, Crump questioned why the attacker was not immediately arrested considering the evidence. There was clear evidence a serious crime had been committed, but the charges took time to be filed. This has led some people to question if the charges might’ve been filed faster under different circumstances. 

When explaining the laws around standing your ground, Dr. Novak explains “They say people are under no legal obligation to flee or avoid conflict.” This provides some insight into what the shooter is claiming and what his lawyers might argue.

Dr. Novak explains, “When somebody trespasses onto your property that kind of fits the definition of stand your ground and castle law,” which is a defense the attacker can use.

Many people are arguing that Lester was just standing his ground in self-defense and that argument will likely be used in court. This also highlights some difficulty for prosecutors in Missouri to try cases like this.

Dr. Novak explains that for the shooter to use stand-your-ground laws, the defendant has to prove “The use of force was necessary to prevent imminent harm against themselves” to win a self-defense argument.

Under this definition, this would require Lester to prove that Yarl was an imminent threat to his well-being during the confrontation.

Dr. Novak points out “It’s not just open season when someone comes onto your property,” he said. “That is the type of question the jury has to answer, questions like if you are that afraid of imminent threat, why did you open the door?” 

As a whole, the motive is up to the judgment of the jury. Because of this, it is impossible to predict the outcome of the case.

According to AP News Crump said, “We all believe that if the roles were reversed and this was a black citizen who shot a 16-year-old for merely ringing his doorbell, they would have arrested him, and he wouldn’t have slept in his bed that night,”.

Yet again racial bias is an aspect of the case that can be observed and if the roles were reversed many question if the shooter would have had the same privileges. If a black man shot a white 16-year-old many believe the arrest would have looked very different.

AP News revealed that two days after Yarl was shot, a 20-year-old woman was killed by a homeowner in Upstate New York Saturday after the car she was in drove to the wrong address. Washington County Sheriff Jeffrey Murphy said Kaylin Gillis was in a car with three others looking for a friend’s house, a situation eerily similar to Yarl’s.

Kevin Monahan, the shooter, was charged with the second-degree murder of Gillis.

This case is comparable to the Yarl shooting in many ways but had key differences. The murder of Gillis was in a different state, and when a white person was shot the shooter was charged faster, and with more intense charges. Others point out that the shooting in upstate New York ended with a murder but if you take that into consideration the cases can still be compared. 

In summary, an innocent teenager was shot because of an honest mistake. Many people are questioning the shooter and the Kansas City police. Ultimately, however, this was yet another shooting in America. Cases like this leave lots of “what if” questions and many of those are left unanswered.

When questioned on what he thought the primary question about shootings should be, Dr. Novak asks “What role does gun and gun availability have in situations like this?”