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Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old, was shot in the head and arm through a glass door on April 13, 2023, by 84-year-old Andrew Lester after ringing the doorbell in an attempt to pick up his siblings. He was at the wrong house, at the wrong time, with the wrong person.
When we think about national headlines and how they impact our daily life and work, we have to pause and think about the bigger issues. These are not just random social issues that don’t apply to all of us; these crimes change our culture and, in turn, should change our business practice.
Old-school business practices have their place, but they also have a shelf life. We cannot minimize crimes or the experiences that minorities have — we have to give them the space and consideration they deserve. Here is the update on Ralph Yarl.
What does this have to do with real estate and housing?
In April, I wrote an article about the wrong-address shootings, and the response was big. It has since opened up a larger discussion about who, when and if door-knocking is still appropriate. Where have we landed on the topic?
From everyone’s comments and opinions, seemingly, it depends on who you are and where you are whether you pref to door-knock. It’s not an equitable experience for everyone. How you look will give you an advantage or disadvantage as to whether someone will open the door to you.
Instagram said it all
With over 1,700-plus reactions and 250-plus comments, agents spoke out the most about this topic on our Instagram post. What I found most interesting was that some people were truly triggered by my call to retire door-knocking.
There almost appeared to be an escalation of emotion when people said they agreed it was unsafe. Some commenters weighed in on others’ personal choice not to door-knock. Other agents made jokes. Some people called the entire concept fear-mongering because I noted that door-knocking could be dangerous.
View this post on Instagram
I urge you to read through all of the comments; there were a ton of perspectives.
Managing brokers, please read this because I think you will be surprised.
This sales activity was deemed more of a sport. You either went in on the offensive or the defensive or were bullied for sitting on the bench.
I bring this up again because many individuals felt it necessary to call out people and call them “playing the victim” if they felt uncomfortable door-knocking. They then claimed an advantage and bragging rights because they benefit from this practice.
So what is the goal of this piece?
It’s awareness, and it is education.
One thread on the Instagram post was over 30-plus comments long about race and the perspective that expressing concern about your personal safety is dramatic, or an excuse, or that “it’s not that bad.”
More than a few people said they were personally arming themselves to go door-knock, taking their personal safety into their own hands. This is another reason I won’t personally open my door.
I argue that terrible things happen disproportionally to people of color, women and minorities. The FBI reported that in 2021, 64.5 percent of hate crimes committed involved race, ethnicity or ancestry.
If you fall into those categories, then you may not have as safe and equitable an experience as your other counterparts interacting with the public in any activity, from showings to open houses or door-knocking. Statistically speaking, you have to know your stats to understand your personal risk.
The argument isn’t against sales, becoming a better agent or even door-knocking.
The conversation here is that advice is just advice, everyone has a personal choice, and no one should be told that they are a lesser agent, that they are playing the victim or that they’re making excuses because they choose not to participate in door-knocking.
Just because it’s not your personal experience doesn’t mean theirs is wrong.
The “more business for me” comments are gross. Is that the spirit of this industry? Are we in such steep competition that we cannot empathize with others?
The amount of minimizing bullying, gaslighting and negativity from so-called “professionals” is absolutely ridiculous in this post’s comments.
This is why diversity, equity and inclusion training is so critical for our industry.
An update on Ralph Yarl
What has happened since the shooting?
I was surprised when I was invited to join the national press conference for Yarl’s legal team. His team found value in this news story and the work we do. They reached out because they need help keeping Ralph’s story top-of-mind to get the attention it deserves. The same attention you would want if it was your family member.
Since the shooting, Yarl has been living with his aunt. His neighborhood makes him nervous. His family calls it a miracle that he is still here, but he can’t do the things kids should be able to do.
He can’t play his musical instruments. He can’t jump on a trampoline. He suffers from migraines. That’s how traumatic brain injuries work. His family says the honor student is a shell of his former self.
On Memorial Day, Yarl and his family attended the “Going the Distance for Brain Injury” run-walk event in Kansas City to raise money for those with traumatic brain injuries.
The road to recovery is long and potentially permanent. The ripples of April 13, 2023, have changed Yarl’s life forever. He will always be known as the kid who was shot for going to the wrong address. The headline will never read, “Ralph Yarl lives despite being a victim of gun violence.”
Weeks later, on Thursday, June 1, Yarl’s attorneys announced that fast-tracking this crime to trial has been challenging and faces many roadblocks now that a Missouri judge has ordered evidence sealed from the public. This was done in reaction to the perception that Mr. Lester may not be given a fair trial due to recent developments.
Lester’s attorney, Steve Salmon, filed the motion to have the case sealed, arguing that the media attention has created a “bias” against his client.
Time is of the essence as, due to Lester’s age and current health, delays in the case could lead to no trial.
Why did Lester shoot first before asking questions or calling 911?
He was “scared to death” due to the boy’s size, according to the probable cause document obtained by CNN. Yarl’s aunt, Faith Spoonmore, told reporters her nephew is less than 6 feet tall and probably under 170 pounds.
Clay County prosecutor Zachary Thompson has told reporters there was a “racial component” to the shooting but did not elaborate.
Family members of Lester have described the event as a terrible mistake, but his grandson wasn’t surprised. Noting that he knew his grandfather often had radical news outlets on his television, the grandson felt this programming fueled the paranoia that led to the shooting. An ex-wife has spoken out that Lester has a history of anger and throwing items.
Yarl’s family is being represented by Ben Crump, who expressed his disapproval of the judge’s decision.
“Transparency is key here,” Crump said. “Far too many times, things that occur in the dark lead to injustice being proliferated in our communities. And we don’t want that to happen here. The whole world is watching Kansas City to see if there will be accountability and justice for this teenage kid who merely rang the doorbell.”
Crump has stated that if the roles were reversed, he believes the legal system would not only have moved more quickly but that Lester would not have received the treatment he has received thus far.
“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.” – Ben Crump, attorney for Ralph Yarl.
Crump makes a good point. The point that makes everyone uncomfortable is saying it out loud: The experience of minorities in this country is very different from that of their white counterparts.
My 15-year-old son is 5’10, 200+ pounds, is in the band and occasionally makes the honor roll. I keep asking myself if it had been him on the doorstep instead of Ralph, would this have been a different outcome? Would Mr. Lester have asked him who he was and why he was there? Or would his first instinct still be to shoot first?
Ralph went to the wrong address to pick up his younger siblings — 1100 NE 115th Street instead of 1100 NE 115th Terrace.
Lester shot this kid through a glass storm door. There was no hesitation to do so. In fact, he opened his main door to shoot. Why would someone breaking into your house ring the doorbell to let you know they are there? Why wouldn’t you call the police first? The kid wasn’t in his house; he was on his porch.
Yarl had to go to several homes for help before someone would call the police. This was something that could have been prevented in so many different ways.
Our story here, your comments and the platform we have at Inman News to talk about these important issues allow us to discuss more than just the business of finding homes but also important social issues.
To create change, to educate and to hopefully close the door on some of the awful hate that is catching fire across our country right now, don’t stop talking about these issues. Let’s keep the conversation going.
Rachael Hite is a former agent, a business development specialist, fair housing advocate, copy editor, and is currently perfecting her long game selling homes in a retirement community in Northern Virginia. You can connect with her about life, marketing, and business on Instagram