The shooting of a Black teenager who rang the wrong doorbell after mistaking the residence for one a block over has sparked outrage on social media, a weekend protest and calls for the shooter’s arrest.
The 16-year-old, identified by the attorneys as Ralph Paul Yarl, was said to be stable at a hospital after he was shot just before 10 p.m. on Thursday, according to police and the lawyers.
Nationally prominent civil rights attorneys Lee Merritt and Ben Crump announced on Sunday, that they were taking the case and promptly criticized authorities in Kansas City, Missouri, for releasing the man who opened fire, who they said is a white man.
The white man is in his 80s, according to a CNN review of property records, police statements and detention records.
CNN is not naming the man at this time, given he has not been charged.
Two representatives at the Kansas City Police Department detention unit read the man’s booking information to CNN over the phone. They confirmed the man who was booked on an investigation hold was a White man in his 80s and his home address matches the address where the shooting took place.
The representatives also noted he was taken into custody on 13 April just before midnight and was released less than two hours later at 1:24 a.m. on 14 April.
Property records, and a neighbor who spoke to CNN, confirmed the man and his wife are the homeowners living at the shooting location.
Yarl, a high school junior whose teacher said his goal is to study chemical engineering in college, was shot twice, struck in the head and arm, Merritt and Crump said in a joint statement.
“There can be no excuse for the release of this armed and dangerous suspect,” the lawyers said.
Kansas City police said the child mistook a residence in the 1100 block of Northeast 115th Street for the location of his siblings, who were at a home in the 1100 block of Northeast 115th Terrace, according to NBC affiliate KSHB of Kansas City.
Demonstrators targeted the location on Sunday as word of the shooting started to reach a national audience through social media.
Protesters marched toward the residence where the shooting took place, chanting “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”
Yarl’s aunt, Faith Spoonmore, said on Sunday at the protest: “My nephew is alive and he is healing. It is not the story that individual intended for us to tell. We are telling a story that is different from the stories that you normally hear.”
Police Chief Stacey Graves explained why the shooter was released and vowed to investigate thoroughly.
The resident, whose name and race has not been released, was taken into custody and held for 24 hours, the maximum for a suspect in a felony until charges are filed.
A firearm was taken as evidence, Graves said.
She said that a vast majority of felony suspects are released after 24 hours but that many are re-arrested once enough evidence is gathered to trigger charges.
In this case, Graves said, detectives, working “as expeditiously and as thoroughly as we can,” will work to build a solid foundation for prosecution.
“As soon as the case is complete, it will be presented to the Clay County prosecutor for their review,” she said.
“I want everyone to know that I am listening and I understand the concern we are receiving from the community,” she added.
Clay County prosecutors said in a statement on Monday that, “at this point, we have not yet received a criminal referral from the Kansas City Police Department regarding this case.
“However, we are actively working with law enforcement in an attempt to speed up that process so that we can review the file when it is submitted and determine whether criminal charges are appropriate.”
Investigators will consider whether the suspect was protected by Missouri’s “Stand Your Ground” law, Graves said.
The law says a would-be shooter defending life or property does not have to retreat before taking violent action.
Graves also said she has been in touch with the teen’s family and is listening to the concerns of the Black community.
Mayor Quinton Lucas, who attended the news conference, said there’s a “thorough” investigation underway now.
“We will make sure we do all we can to be fair, to make sure we’re as expeditious as possible and more than anything to make sure that everyone, no matter their background, knows that justice can be obtained here in Kansas City,” he said.
Lucas also said he’s been in touch with the victim’s family.
“My heart goes out to the victim of this shooting, the victim’s family, my heart goes out to everyone impacted,” he said.
Emerging details of the incident illustrate the strength and bravery shown by the high school junior after he was shot.
A neighbor, who asked not to be identified, tells CNN she called 911 after Ralph came to her door, bleeding.
She was directed to stay inside her home by the emergency operator, for her safety as the shooter’s location was unknown.
“I wanted to help him, but they kept saying that we don’t know where the shooter is at,” the woman said.
She complied initially, then went outside with towels to help suppress the bleeding.
“I kneeled down next to him, and I said what’s your name … Who shot you?”
She said Ralph explained he “was supposed to pick up my brothers.”
“We figured out then he went to the wrong street, which is no excuse for what happened,” she said. “This is somebody’s child. I had to clean blood off of my door, off of my railing. That was someone’s child’s blood. I’m a mom … this is not OK.”
While awaiting the ambulance, bleeding from injuries to the left side of his head and his right arm, the neighbor said Ralph told her he runs on the high school track team and plays the bass clarinet in band.
“He was very alert,” she said. “He is a very strong man. Very brave.”