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Kansas City police probe shooting of Black teen who went to wrong house to pick up his younger brothers

Teen shot after knocking on the wrong door
Black teen shot after going to wrong house to pick up siblings 03:08

Update: Prosecutors have filed felony charges against the homeowner in the shooting. Read the latest here. Our earlier story is below.

The investigation into the shooting of Ralph Yarl, a Black teenager who was shot by a homeowner after he went to the wrong house to pick up his younger brothers, includes questions about whether race played a role, authorities in Kansas City, Missouri, said. Yarl remains hospitalized with serious injuries.

Attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family, said the homeowner initially shot the teen in the head and then shot him a second time after the boy fell to the ground.

Police are quickly preparing evidence for prosecutors in Thursday's shooting, Chief Stacey Graves said Sunday at a news conference at police headquarters.

"I want everyone to know that I am listening," Graves said, "and I understand the concern we are receiving from the community."

The Kansas City Star reported that the 16-year-old victim, identified online by family members as Yarl, was hospitalized Thursday night after he was shot while trying to pick up his younger twin brothers from a friend's house. Police said he went to the wrong house and was shot there.

Ralph Yarl in undated family photo. Faith Spoonmore GoFundMe page for him

Officials would not confirm the number of times the homeowner shot the victim or where his injuries were. Police initially said Yarl was stable but had a life-threatening injury. His current condition has not been released, other than that he is stable.

Police have not identified the shooter or his race, though Crump told The Star that based on what he was told by the teen's family, the shooter is White.

"It is inescapable not to acknowledge the racial dynamics at play," Crump said.

Information that officials have now does not point to race as a factor in the shooting, according to Graves, but that remains under investigation. Investigators also will consider whether or not the suspect was protected by "Stand Your Ground" laws, Graves said.

Yarl was meant to pick up his brothers from a friend's house on 115th Terrace. He ended up ringing the doorbell at a home on 115th Street, Faith Spoonmore, the teen's aunt, wrote online.

A man opened the door, saw Yarl and shot him in the head. When Yarl fell to the ground, the man shot him again. Yarl got up and ran from the property, but he had to ask at three different homes before someone helped him, Spoonmore wrote.

Kansas City police officers said they responded around 10 p.m.

Graves said Sunday that the homeowner was taken into custody Thursday and placed on a 24-hour hold. While searching the scene for evidence, detectives found the firearm used. Law enforcement released the suspect pending further investigation after consulting with the Clay County prosecutor's office.

Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson released a statement on Monday saying his office had not yet received a criminal referral from the Kansas City Police Department regarding the case.

"We are actively working with law enforcement in an attempt to speed up that process," Thompson wrote.

Missouri law allows a person to be held up to 24 hours for a felony investigation. At that point, the person must be released or arrested and formally charged. In order to arrest someone, law enforcement needs a formal victim statement, forensic evidence and other information for a case file to be completed, Graves said.

Because of the teen's injuries, Graves said, police haven't been able to get a victim statement.

Mayor Quinton Lucas, who attended the news conference, said police understand the community's concern that the shooting could be racially motivated. Some members of the police department attended Sunday's protest in the neighborhood where the shooting took place to listen to community concerns, he said.

"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," Lucas said.

Crump told The Star on Sunday that the family has retained his Florida-based law firm.

"You can't just shoot people without having justification when somebody comes knocking on your door and knocking on your door is not justification," Crump said. "This guy should be charged."

Crump has represented the families in several high-profile cases including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

Crump said the homeowner initially shot the teen in the head and then a second time after the boy fell to the ground. The family also has retained Lee Merritt, a Texas-based civil rights attorney who previously represented the family of Cameron Lamb, who was fatally shot by Kansas City police detective Eric DeValkenaere in 2019.

Even though Yarl "is doing well physically, he has a long road ahead mentally and emotionally," Spoonmore wrote in a GoFundMe she started to raise money for Yarl's medical bills and other expenses.

Missouri State Representative Marlene Terry said that the Kansas City Police Dept. must work quickly to investigate this crime with full transparency, CBS affiliate KVTV reported.

"Once again, the state of Missouri has witnessed the shooting of an unarmed Black, male teenager, this time because he knocked on the wrong door while picking up his siblings," Rep. Terry said.

Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., tweeted that "we need to work for the legislative and heart change to prevent these tragedies."

Celebrities such as Halle Berry, Kerry Washington and Jennifer Hudson also posted messages to social media about the shooting.

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