You can’t teach this

It might make someone uncomfortable about racism in America.

It’s a crime to ring a doorbell while black in America.

Ralph Yarl, a 16 year old Black boy, was shot twice by a white man in North Kansas City after accidentally ringing the doorbell of the wrong home while attempting to pick up his sibling. The white man reportedly shot Ralph in the head through the glass door, then when Yarl was already bleeding out on the ground, shot him again. The family has described it as a hate crime, and community members are calling for justice for the young victim.

The perpetrator of this vicious crime is in jail, at least. He is in jail, right? Right?

Reports indicate that the white man was taken to the police headquarters briefly to provide a statement but was released shortly after without charge. Yarl’s family is outraged that the perpetrator has not been held accountable.

Unbelievable. He shot an unarmed boy who only rang his doorbell, and put a second bullet in him while he was lying on the ground, and the police didn’t recognize that he committed an act of attempted murder? Let me guess: Missouri has a ‘stand your ground’ law.


  1. Akira MacKenzie says

    Judge: “You stand accused for murdering a young man who had the wrong address, how do you plead?

    Accused: “I plead white, your honor.”

    Judge: “Case dismissed!”

  2. says

    If somebody ringing your doorbell – the doorbell specifically meant for people to ring – is enough of a threat to warrant “standing your ground”, what actions will not count? I mean, next time there’s a school shooting, what’s to prevent shooter from just claiming that he was “standing his ground”, over and over again?

    “The teacher was holding a piece of chalk, your honor. There’s no telling what he was going to do with it. I was in fear for my life!”
    At this point, I’m not even joking. Can someone explain why that defense wouldn’t work?

  3. Ada Christine says

    @LykeX #6

    It’s going to be up to a grand jury for now. The wording of the law is so slippery that unless there’s an established precedent for what constitutes a “reasonable fear”, then even an implicit bias can be considered reasonable. It’s not going to matter how solid the prosecutors make the case for a crime having been committed at that point.

  4. says

    According to Associated Press:

    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.

    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.

    I would have thought a kid in hospital with a couple of gunshot wounds would count as evidence.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    The second shot will get the asshole in trouble. If ballistics prove the black man was already on the ground outside, and the shooter fired the second shot from inside down into the head of Ralph Yarl it is obvious he tried to kill someone who at this moment could not have posed a threat to him.

    Even if the shooter is aquitted there is an army of lawyers who will enjoy the prestige of doing the lawsuit for such a high-profile case.

  6. Ada Christine says

    @timgueguen #8

    As far as the police are concerned it’s evidence that a black person got shot by a white person, not evidence that the black person is a victim of a crime even given the reported circumstances of the incident It’s the benefit of the doubt of white privilege at work. We all know that “stand your ground” is an excuse for cowards to act first and never have to think about the consequences.

  7. gijoel says

    If only there were a “good guy with a gun” there, this tragedy could have been prevented. /s

  8. numerobis says

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

    Neat trick; if you want to commit a crime, make sure the victim can’t talk.

  9. says

    Didn’t take long for my rage to boil over today. It’s completely unsurprising, and the fact that horrors like this keep happening dismantles any trust I have in American society.

  10. wzrd1 says

    birgerjohansson @10, yep. Though, one small thing. A man was not on the ground, a minor child was.
    A similar case involved a man, who in the wee hours of the morning, in a drunken stupor, attempted entry through a sliding glass door at a neighbor’s home. Investigation suggested that he erroneously attempted entry thinking it was his home. The neighbor shot him, then fired a round into him on the ground, killing him.
    The first shot was found to be justified, his self-defense argument fell flat due to the second round being proved to be fired when the deceased was on the ground, due to the round chipping the concrete beneath the body and a man bleeding to death and not moving not presenting a threat. He was convicted of murder.
    The second shot should prove murder, rather than any self-defense under stand your ground. It’s a wee bit difficult to be a threat when your brain is on the sidewalk behind you.

    Now, the question, why is it acceptable to incarcerate someone without charge now? We used to require someone to be charged with a crime before locking them up, now it seems that we should, if someone else gets upset.
    Now, we should arrest and incarcerate, before any investigation, in perpetuity, any suspect of any crime, no bail, no defense, as there are no charges until an investigation is presented to the courts in the form of charges. What the hell, why not just summarily execute the shooter, make America Great by summary execution of sentences?
    That really is the objection. A release, as an investigation is ongoing and charges not pressed yet and obviously the child will become undead before the shooter can be punished or maybe Scotty is going to beam him away, revenge is needed now!

    I miss the old days, when we investigated, arrested, charged, tried, then incarcerated. Then, stick a needle in his frigging arm, the taxpayers don’t deserve to foot the bill for his upkeep.
    And I’m sure he’ll be charged, as otherwise Jehovah Witlesses will be getting gunned down in droves, as well as door to door salespersons and even process servers.

  11. says

    I keep looking for valid reasons to believe that human society is not a completely failed human construct. But, my decades long first hand observations and experiences, along with all available information only support the objective position that human society is a murderous, destructive failure.

    among other reasons:

  12. says

    Just once I want someone to say “I thought he was a cop.”

    Most stand your ground laws revolve around threatening behavior. Well, cops are pretty damn threatening. So are 7th day adventists, come to think.

  13. says

    The supposedly “greatest country in the world” is failing miserably at the most fundamental societal task.
    If we can’t safely raise children, little else matters.

  14. says

    The second shot will get the asshole in trouble.

    If the first didn’t get him in any trouble, we can’t be sure the second will either.

    “We all know that “stand your ground” is an excuse for WHITE cowards to act first and never have to think about the consequences.” FIFY.

  15. wzrd1 says

    @Raging Bee, the second shot will. It has in every similar case, as once the “threat” is on the ground unmoving, which having one’s brain spewed out the opposite side of one’s skull tends to cause, the second shot becomes murder.
    And there is no legal requirement to think about the consequences, only a legal requirement to suffer from those consequences.

    Around 20 years ago, headlines screamed over a Japanese college student trick or treating with friends, when a homeowner, whose light was off, opened fire, killing him with one shot to the chest. Due to property laws, as this was pre-stand your ground, although the effects of some state laws already had that codified, he was not charged with a crime. There was much hoopla, even some Japanese governmental pushing to change various state laws and I was part of push back, as we don’t push to change Japanese law, they shouldn’t interfere with our laws or maybe we need to address some WWII experiments and comfort women…
    Yeah, rug meet brush under.
    Around the same time, a drunken man attempted entry via a downstairs sliding door at a neighbor’s home and was shot to death. The first shot disabled him, he was on the ground, the homeowner fired into the prone, unarmed man, killing him. The homeowner claimed self-defense, the jury and DA disagreed and he was convicted of murder. That whole hors de combat thing rendered him impossible to be a threat.
    The investigation took several days, while people howled for summary executions, vengeance upon families and a pox upon houses. Damning was that the second shot penetrated his body, chipping the concrete beneath him, removing any doubt that he was prone and unmoving.

    No, let’s knee jerk and demand summary executions of injustice, it’s only civilized or something.
    I’ll do what I’ve learned to do, await the investigation and eventual charges.

  16. says

    The assailant has been charged with two felonies, “first degree assault” and “armed criminal action.” These are the most severe charges that can be brought against him, because Missouri doesn’t have an “attempted murder” crime on the books. He’s in big trouble, but that doesn’t explain why the police let him walk away.

  17. says

    “There was much hoopla, even some Japanese governmental pushing to change various state laws and I was part of push back, as we don’t push to change Japanese law…”

    Sure, never mind their whole fucking constitution.

  18. wzrd1 says

    Indeed, never mind about our whole fucking Constitution.
    But, it’s nice to know that involuntary human extermination experimentation and sexual slavery is a constitutional right in some nations. I guess the US shouldn’t have gotten rid of those, huh?

  19. silvrhalide says

    @26 The police aren’t letting him walk away. This time anyway.
    The 85 year old white bigot, in addition to the two felony charges, now has a warrant out for his arrest and must post $200,000.00 bond or sit his remanded ass in jail until his court date.

    The really disgusting part of the whole news story is that this wounded kid ran to the neighbors’ houses to get help and safety and was turned away from 3 of them. AFTER being shot in the head.
    Depressing to think that the shooter might not be the shittiest excuse for a human in that neighborhood.

  20. says

    My grandfather was like this toward the end. All Fox News and all n-word that. That was back in the Obama days. He’s gon now and the rest of the family had issues with his racist BS. Luckily he lived in a quiet corner of the PNY that has zero brown people. He still went full on birther and I will never forgive him for that.

  21. silvrhalide says

    @28 When you attack another nation without warning or a declaration of war, against all the internationally-accepted rules of engagement, and then that nation turns around and drops a couple of nukes on your country, unconditional surrender is pretty much the best you can hope for.
    So yeah, dictating the Japanese constitution and requiring Emperor Hirohito to make a nationwide radio broadcast stating that 1) he was not a god and 2) was surrendering unconditionally is the unconditional part of the “unconditional surrender”.
    Keep in mind that
    -Hirohito was basically planning on having the Japanese fight to the last man, woman and child rather than surrender. The 2 nuclear bombs and the demand for the unconditional surrender changed all of that.
    -The Japanese committed war crimes in the Sino-Japanese War when they experimented on Chinese prisoners of war, infecting them with smallpox and anthrax and filming the slow painful demise of the POWs. Also chemical warfare agents.
    -Americans rounded up Japanese Americans and put them in internment camps. The Japanese tortured and committed war crimes against American and British POWs. Neither one of those things is a good look on the people who committed them but one of them is WAY worse than the other and there’s no pretending otherwise.
    -The Japanese kidnapped young women and in some cases, preteen boys, and forced them into sexual slavery to the Japanese military forces. Many did not survive–in addition to being gang-raped on a more or less daily basis, some of them were beaten to death, starved, shot, stabbed or otherwise murdered. The Japanese government has NEVER acknowledged that such a thing happened or has ever apologized to the survivors and/or the victims’ families or made restitution. While most of the kidnapped were from minority groups like the Ainu, plenty of them were Japanese who were on the lower rungs of the social ladder. Stomping Japanese feudal society flat was a GOOD thing. For EVERYONE. Including the Japanese.

  22. lochaber says

    How in the fuck is discharging a firearm an acceptable response to a doorbell?

    I feel like we are missing the point by getting into number of shots fired and bullet trajectories and what not, when, how in the fuck do you think it’s acceptable to shoot someone for ringing your doorbell?

    what the fuck?

  23. tacitus says


    PZ was questioning why they let him go home the first time. Obviously, it was because the racist presumption was that the black kid had provoked the shooter in some way.

    And yeah, if the reporting is accurate, the fact that the kid was turned away multiple times when looking for help is almost as disgusting.

    Meanwhile, also yesterday, a young woman in New York state died when her friend drove into the wrong driveway and the 65 year old homeowner shot at the car without provocation.

    What’s with all these cowardly chickenshit gun owners? They’re appear scared of their own shadows. So much for the fake bravado of American gun culture.

  24. StevoR says

    @ 26. PZ Myers :

    These are the most severe charges that can be brought against him, because Missouri doesn’t have an “attempted murder” crime on the books.

    I believe you but What The!? How the hell can they not have attempted murder as a crime?

  25. says

    @tacitus #35
    If you’ve allowed another human being within arm’s reach, your gun is pretty much useless, so you have to shoot them before they get that close. A gun won’t stop someone from harming you unless you shoot them before they get the chance, so shooting people on the slightest suspicion is the natural conclusion to guns as protection.
    Which is also why guns are a poor choice for self-defense.

  26. mamba says

    #34, thank you, I was hoping SOMEONE would bring that little point up! The doorbell was rung, and this man’s default reaction was to grab his gun and shoot through his own door. At that point the second shot frankly is irrelevant and only makes him look worse. THIS IS NOT NORMAL BEHAVIOUR!

    This man is a paranoid gun-loving nutcase who’s clearly dangerous. The fact that people are actually saying “Well maybe the door handle was being jiggled so…deserves to be shot maybe?” shows just how fucked up things are in your country regarding guns and race.

    Here’s a simple question that even the cops clearly ignored. Did this man at any point before he pulled the trigger try screaming “WHO ARE YOU?” or “WHAT DO YOU WANT?” before deciding this KID was a criminal who deserves to die tonight? You know, pretty basic info gathering before unloading lethal force repeatedly? Nope, he just saw brown skin and started blasting.

  27. numerobis says

    StevoR: if they have laws that cover the various ways one could attempt to murder someone, what’s it matter whether they also have attempted murder?

  28. wzrd1 says

    As for the young woman in NY that was shot for being in the wrong driveway, it’s worse.
    The driver had turned around and was leaving, so she was shot when the homeowner opened fire on a vehicle that was leaving and showed absolutely no sign of being a threat.

    LykeX @37, so, I’m actually dead? I shot and killed someone at point blank range in Iraq when he attacked me and my team. Per your version of the universe, I’m dead, as I didn’t just go in guns blazing and kill the family inside of that house. Oh, they’re alive and well, the last that I heard, a couple of years post deployment.
    Firearms aren’t magical death rays, nor are they useless murder machines, they’re tools, to be properly and safely used or improperly and unsafely abused. For causing harm, they’re as harmful in skilled hands as a knife, but for one minor difference. It’d pretty fucking impossible to harm someone 100 yards away with a knife, it’s not hard at all to do with reasonable skill and a firearm.

    Late at night, I might consider going to the door with a weapon, as a precaution, not as an intent to use. The same is true if someone was coming down my long driveway. If I see them turn around, the pigiron gets put down and I wave bye to them happily. If the kid at the door just has the wrong door, not the first time that’s actually happened to me, I simply point the kid the right way, no harm, no foul.
    Violence is the first resort of the incompetent.

  29. birgerjohansson says

    Wzrd1 @ 43
    And -like för instance driving a bus full of people- a gun is a tool that requires skill and A LOT of good judgement. Even minor inattention or a minor mistunderstanding can have huge consequences.
    In Europe, Australia and Canada gun owners have to jump through loops for this very reason.
    Assault rifles are either unobtainable, or require a correspondingly higher level of regulations. För some reason neither UK or Australia have had mass shootings since those rules were introduced.
    I cannot rule out that demented people never get their hands in a gun, but here shootings are almost always crook-on-crook conflicts.
    Going off on a tangent, Swedish soldiers have been on UN missions and have had opportunities to practice the kind of judgement that will keep them alive while avoiding civilians getting in the crossfire. Not a trivial problem.

  30. birgerjohansson says

    I wonder how hard it would be to design tasers with in-built cameras to ensure they are not misused.
    And with electronics getting smaller and cheaper, it would eventually be feasible to have cameras integrated with pistols.
    If a shooter failed to have the camera activated while using the gun at another person, this should in itself be a crime, to prevent shooters from circumventing the camera evidence.

  31. says

    @wzrd1 #43

    so, I’m actually dead?

    No, but you did accept a greater risk of death than if you had shot the person earlier. The fact that you took an extra risk and got away with it does not invalidate anything I said. Lots of people get away with not wearing seat belts, but the safer move is to wear them.

    You can certainly wait until you’re sure the other guy has a gun. You can wait until he draws it; you can wait until he points it at you; you can even wait until he has pulled the trigger and the bullet has whizzed past your head.
    But at every step, by waiting, you’re reducing the usefulness of your weapon and your chances of survival. Every moment where you don’t shoot, increases the risk and puts a greater requirement on you to be faster and better than the other guy. One day you won’t be and on that day, it won’t matter whether you brought a gun, because you’ll never get to fire it.

    I’m reminded of that line from Margin Call:

    There are three ways to be successful: Be first, be smarter, or cheat. Now, I don’t cheat. And while I like to think we have some pretty smart people in this room, it sure is easier to just be first.

    Guns for self-defense incentivizes people to shoot first, because that’s the easiest way to be safe. That was my point and it stands.

  32. silvrhalide says

    Unbelievable. Senile racist dipshit is out on bail. AFTER TWO HOURS.
    The kid he shot is going to spend a whole lot more time than that in the hospital and in rehab.
    At least someone took away his guns.

    “Lester turned himself in at a detention center Tuesday then hours later was released on bail. The conditions of his $200,000 bond prohibit him from having any type of weapon and cannot have direct or indirect contact with Yarl or his family, according to Clay County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sarah Boyd.”

    ““In Missouri, you can have a 24-hour hold. It is clear here that this was two or three hours, where they questioned the suspect. He was able to go back home that evening.””

    “On the night of the shooting, Lester was taken into custody and was released less than two hours later, two representatives at the Kansas City Police Department detention unit previously told CNN.

    Lester was released because police recognized that more investigative work needed to be done, Thompson said.

    Attorney Crump questioned why Lester was not detained longer.

    “Nobody can tell us if the roles were reversed, and you had a Black man shoot a White 16-year-old teenager for merely ringing his doorbell that he would not be arrested. I mean, this citizen went home and slept in his bed at night after shooting that young Black kid in the head,” Crump told CNN.

    “He merely rang the doorbell. That was it,” the teen’s attorney said. “And the owner of the home shoots through the door, hitting him in the head and then shoots him a second time.”

    The mayor said he didn’t even know the details of the case until several days after the shooting. And while he believes race played a role in the shooting, he acknowledged the work by police – including White officers – who helped prosecutors file charges against Lester.

    “We did have officers, White officers for what it’s worth, who did a lot of hard work to get this case file to the prosecutor having charges filed shortly thereafter,” Lucas said.

    “That being said, to pretend that race is not a part of this whole situation would be to have your head in the sand.””

    Still, it’s heartening to see that the neighborhood isn’t top-to-bottom filled with racist shitheads.

    “A neighbor, who asked not to be identified, told CNN she called 911 after Ralph came to her door, bleeding.

    Since the shooter’s location was unknown at the time, she was directed to stay inside her home by the emergency operator for her safety. She said she complied initially, then went outside with towels to help suppress the bleeding.

    “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,” she said. “I’m a mom … this is not OK.””

  33. silvrhalide says

    @48 Well there goes my original theory of “senile white racists plus white male privilege” combined with gun ownership is the problem. The asshole in your link is Latino and 25.
    WTF is his problem? He’s in fear of his life… from high school cheerleaders?! Mentally scarred by too many Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns?
    The girl was apologizing to the car owner when he shot her! WTF?!

    I too have a gray sedan that looks like every other gray sedan on the road, to the point that when stopped at a traffic light I noticed that three other cars, same make, model and color, were stopped with me. The Better Half has gone to a car that is not mine multiple times and tried to enter. Hell, I’ve mistaken someone else’s car for mine and been annoyed that the key fob didn’t open the car door, before absent-mindedly realizing that my identical car is parked several spaces further down. Mercifully, neither one of us has been shot for the error.