A Black teenager was shot in the head in Kansas City, Mo., after showing up at the wrong house to pick up his siblings, lawyers for his family said.
Family members identified the victim online as Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old high school junior.
Kansas City Police were called to a residence shortly before 10 p.m. on Thursday where the teenager was shot by a homeowner, Police Chief Stacey Graves said in a news conference Sunday
Police said the teenager’s parents asked him to pick up his siblings at a residence on 115th Terrace, in the city’s northeast, but that he instead went to a residence on 115th Street, the Kansas City Star reported.
Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Lee Merritt, representing Yarl and his family, said in a statement that Yarl “is alive and recovering” but that he has severe injuries. They said he was “shot twice and struck in the head and arm by an unidentified white male assailant,” and that Yarl was unarmed.
Graves did not identify the homeowner or mention their gender or race. She said the homeowner was taken into custody and put on a 24-hour hold, but was later released on the advice of Clay County prosecutors “due to the need to obtain a formal statement from the victim, forensic evidence and compile additional information for a case file to be presented.”
Graves said that evidence from the scene does not suggest that the shooting was racially motivated, according to the Associated Press. But investigators will continue to look into this possibility, she said.
Kansas City police did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Monday.
Graves said “We recognize the frustration this can cause in the entire criminal justice process,” she said. “We want the community to know that we are committed to justice in this case and every case.”
Yarl’s attorneys said in their statement that law enforcement in Clay County should swiftly “identify, arrest and prosecute to the full extent of the law the man responsible for this horrendous and unjustifiable shooting.”
News of Yarl’s shooting sparked a protest Sunday in Kansas City.
The case also attracted national attention, with celebrities and politicians demanding action.
“My heart completely broke when I learned this precious 16-year-old, who accidentally rang the door of the wrong address in an attempt to pick up his siblings, was shot in the head … by a man who didn’t want him on his property,” tweeted actress Halle Berry.
“My God !!! Heartbroken for this young man and his family. Praying for his complete recovery,” wrote actress and singer Jennifer Hudson.
“I have sent my 17 year-old son to go pick up one of his siblings from a friend’s house,” wrote Georgia state Rep. Michelle Au (D), who is Chinese American. “Like Ralph, he excels in a youth orchestra. Like Ralph, he is a student in the sciences. Like Ralph, he has big dreams. I don’t know that my son would be shot for ringing the wrong person’s doorbell.”
Graves, the police chief, said that the information police have “does not say that that is racially motivated. That’s still an active investigation. But as a chief of police, I do recognize the racial components of this case.”
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas (D), who is Black, said that he understood the concern expressed by local residents that Yarl’s race could have played a role in his shooting. “This is not something that has been dismissed, marginalized or diminished in any way. This is something that is getting the full attention of the Kansas City Police Department,” he said.
An unverified GoFundMe started by Faith Spoonmore, who identified herself as Yarl’s aunt, had raised nearly $100,000 early Monday. The Post has contacted GoFundMe to verify the fundraiser.
“Life looks a lot different right now. Even though he is doing well physically, he has a long road ahead mentally and emotionally. The trauma that he has to endure and survive is unimaginable,” Spoonmore wrote of Yarl. “He is our miracle. We have heard these types of stories many times, and unfortunately, most black boys are not alive to get another chance.”