In just six days, there have been three separate shootings of teenagers across the country that all have one thing in common: they were shot after showing up at the wrong place. Four young people have been shot, one fatally, after mistakenly showing up at the wrong addresses or, in the most recent case, getting into the wrong car. The first shooting happened in Kansas City, MO, last Thursday. Sixteen-year-old Ralph Yarl was shot twice, once in the head, after going to the wrong home to pick up his younger brothers. A similar situation occurred in upstate New York when Kaylin Gillis, 20, also pulled onto a property she had mistaken for a friend’s house. Gillis, who was driving the car, was shot at as she attempted to leave the property. The shooter came out onto his porch and fired two shots, according to Washington County Sheriff Jeffrey Murphy. One round hit Gillis, killing her. Lastly, two Texas cheerleaders were shot after one of them said she mistakenly got into the wrong car, thinking it was hers. These unprecedented tragedies all happened within one week of each other.
By The Associated Press; April 19, 2023
In the span of six days, four young people across the U.S. have been shot — one fatally — for making one of the most ordinary and unavoidable mistakes in everyday life: showing up at the wrong place.
A man shot and wounded two cheerleaders outside a Texas supermarket early Tuesday after one of them said she mistakenly got into his car thinking it was her own.
A group looking for a friend’s house in upstate New York arrived in the wrong driveway only for one of them to be shot to death Saturday night, authorities said.
In Missouri last Thursday, a Kansas City teen was shot twice after going to the wrong home to pick up his younger brothers, raising questions about the state’s “stand your ground law” and heightening racial tensions.
This type of gun violence is not rare, said Jonathan Metzl, who directs Vanderbilt University’s Department of Medicine, Health and Society. The shootings have drawn attention because they are so extreme and in such quick succession.
But they show how “stand your ground” laws have fueled a belief that people can use guns defensively “anytime they perceive a threat,” he said.
Below is a brief glance of each shooting and the ensuing criminal investigations in Missouri, New York and Texas.
THE SHOOTING IN KANSAS CITY
Honors student Ralph Yarl, 16, mixed up the address when he went to pick up his twin brothers on Thursday night. Instead of going to 115th Terrace, he showed up at the home of Andrew Lester, 84.
Lester, who is white, told police he had just gotten in bed when he heard the doorbell. Before answering, he grabbed his revolver. Lester said he then saw Yarl, who is Black, pulling on the storm door handle, something Yarl disputes, according to the probable cause statement.
Lester told police he thought the teen was attempting to break into the home and he was “scared to death,” the statement said. Without saying a word, Lester fired twice.
Yarl said the first shot struck him in the head, knocking him to the ground. As he lay there, the second bullet pierced his arm. Yarl told police he fled as the homeowner yelled, “Don’t come around here,” the statement said.
Lester was charged with first-degree assault Monday and turned himself in Tuesday.
Some civil rights leaders have called for a hate crime charge, but Zachary Thompson, Clay County prosecuting attorney, said first-degree assault is a higher-level crime with a longer sentence — up to life in prison.
The wounded teen is recovering at home, and his mother, Cleo Nagbe, said the trauma is evident. She told “CBS Mornings” co-host Gayle King that her son mostly “just sits there and stares and the buckets of tears just rolls down his eyes.”
Legal experts believe Lester’s lawyers will claim self-defense under Missouri’s “stand your ground” law, which allows for the use of deadly force if a person fears for his or her life. Missouri is one of roughly 30 states with such statutes.
St. Louis defense attorney Nina McDonnell said prosecutors have a strong case but the “stand your ground” defense is a “huge hurdle” to overcome.
But Ari Freilich, an attorney and state policy director with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said nothing in the law “allows someone to shoot first and ask questions later when someone innocently rings a doorbell.”
THE SHOOTING IN UPSTATE NEW YORK
Kaylin Gillis, 20, was traveling through the rural town of Hebron with three other people Saturday night when the group turned onto a property that was not the friend’s house they were looking for, authorities said. They were met with gunfire in the driveway.
The group was trying to turn the car around when the homeowner, Kevin Monahan, 65, came out onto his porch and fired two shots, according to Washington County Sheriff Jeffrey Murphy.
One round hit Gillis, killing her.
They drove to the neighboring town of Salem, near the Vermont state line, and called 911, said Murphy, who noted the area has limited cell phone service.
Monahan was booked into the Warren County jail on a charge of second-degree murder. It wasn’t clear whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Murphy said at a news conference Monday that there was ”no reason for Mr. Monahan to feel threatened.”
New York doesn’t have a “stand your ground” law.
THE SHOOTING IN TEXAS
A man shot and wounded two cheerleaders in a supermarket parking lot after one of them said she mistakenly got into his car thinking it was her own.
The shooting in Elgin, east of Austin, happened early Tuesday in an area that serves as a carpool pickup spot for members of the Woodlands Elite Cheer Company, team owner Lynne Shearer said.
Heather Roth said she got out of her friend’s car and into a vehicle she thought was hers, but there was a stranger in the passenger seat, KTRK-TV reported. She said she panicked and got back into her friend’s car, but the man got out of his vehicle and approached. She said she tried to apologize through her friend’s car window, but the man threw up his hands, pulled out a gun and opened fire.
Roth was grazed by a bullet and treated at the scene, police said. Her teammate Payton Washington, 18, was shot in the leg and back. Washington was flown to a hospital in critical condition.
Police arrested a suspect, 25-year-old Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr., who is charged with engaging in deadly conduct, a third-degree felony. Online court records do not list an attorney for him.