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Shooting of Ralph Yarl, teen who mistakenly rang the wrong doorbell, sparks outrage

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.

As protests erupted in Kansas City over the shooting of a Black teenager who mistakenly rang the wrong doorbell while trying to pick up his younger siblings, celebrities and other public figures have turned to social media to demand justice for Ralph Yarl.

The 16-year-old, whose family members identified him by name, was shot by a homeowner on Thursday night. Yarl had intended to collect his twin brothers from a home on the 1100 block of NE 115th Terrace and ended up at the wrong address, his aunt, Faith Spoonmore, wrote online. The teenager was reportedly hospitalized with injuries in the wake of the shooting, according to The Kansas City Star. Officials have not confirmed details about his condition.

Actors Halle Berry and Kerry Washington called attention to the case on Twitter and urged their followers to urge law enforcement officials to hold the shooter legally accountable. They asked followers to contact Zachary Thompson, the prosecutor in Clay County.

"His name is #RalphYarl and I'm sick and tired of this feeling…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," Berry wrote in one of several tweets shared on Sunday night.

"Instead of waiting around for #LoveIsBlind…make a phone call. For #RalphYarl. Demand that Prosecutor Zachary Thompson make an arrest and bring the appropriate charges," Washington tweeted.

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.

Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King, called for justice in a message shared to Twitter about Yarl's case. 

"That means the man who did this should be charged AND we need to work for the legislative and heart change to prevent these tragedies."

Meanwhile, Missouri State Rep.Marlene Terry, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus, said in a statement the shooting of Yarl "underscores why 'shoot first, ask questions later' policies like so-called 'Stand Your Ground' laws do far more harm than good," CBS affiliate KCTV reported. "Stand Your Ground" laws, which exist in Missouri, allow in certain circumstances the use of deadly force as an act of self-defense or to protect property.

"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," Terry said in the statement. 

Authorities have not confirmed the number of times Yarl was shot, nor have they released any identifying information about the shooter. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who has represented families of shooting victims in several widely-publicized cases, including those for Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Trayvon Martin, told The Star that he was retained by Yarl's family and, based on what they shared with him, the shooter is white.

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

Kansas City Teen Shot
This undated photo provided by Ben Crump Law shows Ralph Yarl, the teenager shot by a homeowner in Kansas City, Mo.  / AP

Charges have not been filed against the shooter. The homeowner was taken into custody on Thursday and placed on a 24-hour hold before being released, Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said at a news conference on Sunday. 

Graves said Sunday that the police department was preparing evidence for prosecutors, adding that the investigation into the shooting would involve examining whether race played a role. Investigators will also consider whether the homeowner is protected by "Stand Your Ground" laws, according to the police chief.

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

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