Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old child, was shot by a white man after mistakenly ringing the wrong doorbell. Ralph was trying to pick up his twin brothers from a friend’s home nearby when he called on the wrong house. The occupant shot him twice – once in the head.
The Kansas City Defender reported that Lester shot Ralph through a glass door. Then, when Ralph lay bleeding out on the ground, Lester shot him again. Remarkably, Ralph is now out of critical condition. According to his attorneys, he’s recovering well.
Outrage rose when it was revealed that the shooter, Andrew Lester, had been released without charges following 24 hours in custody. However, on Monday 17 April, Clay County prosecutor Zachary Thompson announced that Lester had been charged with assault in the first degree and armed criminal action. The bail for Lester, whose age was variously given as 84 and 85 by prosecutors and US media, was set at $200,000.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas told CNN:
To pretend that race is not a part of this whole situation would be to have your head in the sand. This boy was shot because he was existing while black.
Deadly shootings are a regular occurrence in the US, a country of around 330 million people that is awash with an estimated 400 million guns. Added to this, anti-Blackness is a global structure which kills Black people around the world. In the US particularly, Black people are faced with a violently anti-Black system socially, culturally, politically, and economically. Ralph’s horrifying experience is entirely in keeping with this system, as many on social media said.
Grief and outrage
Lee Merritt, Ralph’s attorney, summed up the facts of the situation:
Ralph Yarl was shot because he was armed with nothing but other than his Black skin.
Merritt also shared an image with Ralph:
Ralph Yarl is home and recovering! How the bullet in his head did not cause more extensive damage is truly a miracle. To God be the glory! pic.twitter.com/y5mWpQNcY4
— Lee Merritt (@MerrittForTexas) April 19, 2023
Remarkably, it soon emerged that after being shot Ralph staggered to three different houses looking for help. One social media user explored how abject this was:
That child went to three different houses after getting shot twice before someone helped him
Three. That detail is haunting me
I need reporters to go to each of those homes and get them on record on why they didn’t help. I need that segment now
— Sarojini (@Sarojini) April 19, 2023
Ralph’s schoolmates walked out in support of him:
Wow. Ralph Yarl’s classmates walk out in support of him, after he was shot simply for ringing the wrong doorbell.
— Stop Cop City (@JoshuaPHilll) April 18, 2023
One teenager who also attends Ralph’s school said:
We wanted to show Ralph that we stand with him and to spread awareness about his situation and know that his school will stand by his side and support him
Journalist John Harwood noted that Lester claimed to be scared of Ralph. White people often cast Black boys as bigger, and thereby more dangerous, than they are – a common myth rooted in racism:
the white man who shot black teenager Ralph Yarl for nothing more than knocking on his door said he was scared because Ralph is 6 feet tall
actually, the16-year-old is 5-feet-8 and 140 pounds https://t.co/PNTdYCMjHO
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) April 20, 2023
Senior editor at the Huffington Post Philip Lewis noted that Lester’s grandson described him as living in “fear and paranoia”:
The 84-year-old man who shot Ralph Yarl had been immersed in “a 24-hour news cycle of fear and paranoia” and fully bought into the Fox News messaging, according to his grandson https://t.co/xkv6homg9t
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) April 20, 2023
Historian Austin McCoy made a connection between the kinds of white people who police their neighbourhoods:
White folks who think they’re cops, like the 85-year-old white guy who shot Ralph Yarl, is one of the cornerstones of US racism.
Historically, anti-Blackness allowed them to deputize themselves. Now, they shoot first and tell everyone they were “scared for their lives.”
— Austin McCoy (@AustinMcCoy3) April 18, 2023
Incredibly, Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said at a press conference that the information at the time “does not say that it’s racially motivated”. She added:
But as a chief of police, I do recognize the racial components of this case. I do recognize and understand the community’s concern.
Dr. Faith Spoonmore, Ralph’s aunt, said:
This was not an ‘error’; this was a hate crime. You don’t shoot a child in the head because he rang your doorbell. The fact that the police said it was an ‘error’ is why America is the way it is.
Ralph is a child, who should have been safe picking up his brothers. His shooting is yet another example of violent anti-Blackness in the US. White perceptions of safety do not, and cannot, matter more than the safety of Black communities. It’s Lester, and others like him, who uphold white supremacy and terrorise Black communities.
Featured image by Jeff Ackley/Unsplash
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
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