Civil rights leaders, elected officials demand FBI and DOJ investigate shooting of Ralph Yarl
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - On Tuesday, civil rights leaders and elected officials held a rally at the federal courthouse.
The accused shooter is being prosecuted in Clay County’s state court. Andrew Lester, 84, was charged Monday with felony first-degree assault and armed criminal action.
Those rallying in protest are demanding a federal investigation into the shooting, which they believe should be prosecuted federally as a racially motivated hate crime.
“We are here together to bear witness and to demand better,” said Nimrod Chapel Jr., the president of the NAACP Missouri State Conference.
They spoke with passion about the shooting, the nation’s history of racism, and how implicit racial bias impacts everyday life, from the criminal justice system to the health care system to the educational system.
“Racial hatred and implicit bias permeates our culture and it impacts every aspect of Black lives,” said Gwen Grant, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City. “We are challenged just walking while Black, eating while Black, swimming, living while Black. Driving while Black is a problem. And now, we can’t even walk up to someone’s door and ring a doorbell without fear. So, there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Ralph Yarl, 16, was shot shortly before 10 p.m. on Thursday on the doorstep of Lester’s home.
Yarl told police he was sent to pick up his young twin brothers and mistakenly went to NE 115th Street instead of NE 115th Terrace.
Lester told police he came to the door with a loaded revolver in hand, opened the main door but kept the glass storm door locked, then shot Lester because he was scared by Yarl’s size.
Yarl is Black. Lester is white.
“When Ralph Yarl was shot last week, Jim Crow came face to face with Black joy, Black accomplishment, Black beauty, Black excellence, Black innocence, Black talent, Black gifts and simply told him, ‘Get away from here,’ and picked up a gun and shot him not once, not once, but twice,” said Rev. Dr. Vernon P. Howard Jr., intoning like a pastor at the pulpit. He is the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s local chapter.
Yarl is a junior at Staley High School in the North Kansas City School District. The superintendent detailed his accomplishments. He excelled in college-level classes. He is a talented musician who played clarinet in multiple school bands. He planned to be a chemical engineer. His aunt said he suffered a traumatic brain injury from the shooting and it’s unclear how that will impact him.
Another local activist remarked on how upsetting it was to see him gain attention for his achievements in this context.
“Ralph Yarl’s face, his beautiful Black face, is something we are now seeing not because of his accomplishments, his excellence, his beauty of just being Black, but because he was shot by a perpetrator of racial violence,” said Amaya Cook, Co-founder of Decarcerate KC.
Some noted that the crime happened in Kansas City’s Northland, a predominantly white part of the city.
Missouri State Representative Jamie Johnson, a Democrat representing Platte County, remarked that she is the only Black state representative who represents a part of Kansas City’s Northland.
Kansas City, Missouri, Councilwoman Melissa Robinson said she did send a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice and asked for them to investigate because, she said, she doesn’t trust the state system. She said she has not yet received a reply.
Link to full video of all speeches: Civil rights leaders call for justice following shooting of Ralph Yarl
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