Crime Why Haven’t Kansas City Police Sought Charges in Ralph Yarl Shooting?
Ralph Yarl shooting After a Kansas City teenager was shot and injured for going to the door of the wrong house, outrage followed in Kansas City and across the country. Expand All In assuring the public Sunday that Kansas City police were working hard to investigate the shooting of Ralph Yarl, Chief Stacey Graves said detectives needed a statement from the victim to seek charges against the shooter. She also said investigators would consider whether the shooter was protected by Missouri’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” law. Graves’ comments came at a weekend news conference organized as outrage grew over the case of Yarl, a 16-year-old who was shot and wounded Thursday after knocking on the wrong door in a Northland neighborhood where he had been sent to pick up his younger twin brothers, according to his family.
While protesters gathered in the neighborhood, many questioned why the shooter, who has not been officially identified, was only briefly held and released by police, with no charges filed. On Monday, defense attorneys in Kansas City questioned Graves’ explanations, with several casting doubt on the idea that the “Stand Your Ground” law could protect the shooter. And some argued that it was simply not true that police must have a formal statement from a victim of a crime to send a case to prosecutors for charging, as Graves had said. “That’s a slap in the face (to the victim),” said Phillip A. Brooks, a Kansas City area defense attorney.
“The victim doesn’t have to say anything,” Brooks said. “On physical evidence alone, they (prosecutors) can charge (the suspect).” Brooks gave the example of domestic violence cases where police officers arrive at a home and see the victim with physical injuries. Police would immediately arrest the suspect without the cooperation of the victim, he said. Hundreds attended a Sunday rally and march near the scene of the Ralph Yarl shooting in a Northland neighborhood. Outrage grew over the weekend after no charges were filed. Hundreds attended a Sunday rally and march near the scene of the Ralph Yarl shooting in a Northland neighborhood. Outrage grew over the weekend after no charges were filed.
Susan Pfannmuller Special to The Star On Monday, Clay County prosecutors released a statement saying they were waiting on Kansas City police to bring them a case. “We understand how frustrating this has been, but we can assure the public that the system is working,” Prosecutor Zachary Thompson said in a written statement. Kansas City police spokesman Capt. Corey Carlisle said Monday that detectives were still working as quickly as possible to send the case to the prosecutor’s office. “As soon as we get the case file submitted we will send out an update without delay.” Shot after ringing doorbell About 10 p.m. Thursday, Yarl, a junior at Staley High School in the Northland, intended to go to the house of a friend of his brothers on Northeast 115th Terrace. He mistakenly ended up ringing the doorbell at a home on Northeast 115th Street instead. The homeowner allegedly saw Yarl and shot him in the head. Relatives said when Yarl fell to the ground, the man allegedly shot him again. The teen got up and raced from the property, but he had to ask at three different homes before someone helped him, family members said. The homeowner is a white man in his 80s, according to property records and law enforcement records. The Star is not naming the man because he has not been charged.
The person who shot Yarl was taken into custody by police and released without charges being filed, Graves said Sunday. Graves said the person was kept on a 24-hour hold, which is the longest a person can be detained without charges being filed under Missouri law. According to a database of custody status records, the homeowner was booked after 12:30 a.m. Friday and appears to have been released before 2 a.m. Citing two KCPD detention unit employees, CNN also reported that the man had been released less than two hours after he was taken into custody. Graves said police needed a formal victim statement, forensic evidence and other information for a case file to be completed. Because of the teen’s injuries, Graves said police haven’t been able to get a victim statement yet. She also said that investigators and prosecutors would consider whether the homeowner was protected within the state’s “Stand Your Ground” laws. The Missouri law gives people the right to defend and even use deadly force to protect themselves and other people if they believe that their own or another person’s life or limb is in danger.
KC defense attorneys raise questions Several defense attorneys in Kansas City, including one gun rights advocate, cast doubt on whether Stand Your Ground would apply in this case. But some also suggested reasons why prosecutors might take time to file charges. “This young man, right, has a reasonable expectation of being able to walk up and knock on the front door, even in a house where he’s at the wrong house,” said Craig Devine, a criminal defense attorney. “The question becomes, did he do something more than that, where the homeowner believed that they were needing to defend themselves?” According to the law, the use of force must be proportionate to the level of threat. The law allows a homeowner to defend themselves and their property if they are approached by someone with a deadly weapon such as a knife. “If you come at me with a knife, I can shoot you. That’s not a disproportionate use of force. But if I have nothing in my hands, right, I’m totally unarmed. Then shooting me is going to be a disproportionate use of force,” Devine said. Advances in doorbell technology now allows a homeowner to see who is at their door before deciding whether to answer it. “With a video doorbell, you can see what’s going on your porch. You can contact them through the doorbell or just not answer the door,” he said. “You can walk up to somebody’s front door, knock and wait to see if they answer and then that’s not trespassing.”
Kevin Jamison, a defense attorney and gun rights advocate, said he has not reviewed the evidence or what the homeowner told investigators but he has concerns. “How the homeowner felt threatened, I have no idea,” Jamison said. “The ‘Stand Your Ground’ or the ‘Castle Doctrine doesn’t come into play unless the other guy threatens you in some way.”
Another defense attorney said there are a number of factors that prosecutors have to consider before deciding whether to file criminal charges. “Depending upon what the shooter told them, there may not be enough evidence to charge him,” said John Picerno, a defense attorney. “Likely the only other witness is the victim.”
Defense attorney Dan Ross said prosecutors may consider whether Missouri’s “Castle Doctrine,” would be used as an appropriate defense for the homeowner. “Each case is different and we rely on the integrity of the investigators and prosecutors to be fair. Depending on the evidence, it may be appropriate to charge the suspect immediately,” Ross said. “Other times it may be appropriate to wait, for example awaiting forensic test results to be returned. Hopefully in this case there is an appropriate reason for the delay.” “Whether Missouri’s Castle doctrine applies to this matter depends on the evidence which is not public at this time. At its essence that law focuses on the reasonableness of the subject’s actions in responding to what they perceive as an unlawful act.”
Yarl was released from the hospital Sunday and was recovering at home, his father Paul Yarl told The Star Monday morning. Family members started a GoFundMe Sunday to help pay for hospital bills, therapy and future expenses like college after someone inside the home allegedly shot and injured the teen.
What does the law say? Missouri’s 2016 law states: A person may, subject to the provisions of subsection 2 of this section, use physical force upon another person when and to the extent he or she reasonably believes such force to be necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful force by such other person. What does it mean to ‘Stand Your Ground?’ The Missouri law that governs this case is also known as the “castle doctrine” or the “stand your ground” law. It can be applied to instances that occur in both residential and public spaces. If a person believes there is a risk of death or serious physical injury, and they are legally allowed to be in the place they are, that person can use deadly force to defend themselves or others without breaking the law. They do not have a legal duty to retreat from an altercation, according to Missouri law.
The Star’s Kynala Phillips and Luke Nozicka contributed.