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Guns in America

'He didn't deserve to get shot': Good Samaritan who helped Ralph Yarl found him bloody and motionless

James Lynch said his Eagle Scout training kicked in and he checked the teen's pulse and tried to stanch the blood in a neighbor's driveway before paramedics arrived.
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ralph Paul Yarl, the Black teenager who was shot by a homeowner after having rung the wrong doorbell, was motionless and covered in blood when James Lynch found him unconscious.

"I thought he was dead," Lynch said Monday.

“No one deserves to lay there like that,” Lynch said. “He hasn’t even begun to live his life yet. He didn’t deserve to get shot.”

Lynch, 42, had just gotten out of the shower Thursday night and was getting ready for bed when he heard shouting outside. He went over to his kitchen window and saw a boy banging on the door of a nearby home.

"I heard somebody screaming, 'Help, help, I've been shot!'" Lynch said, adding the shouting was out of place for the normally quiet neighborhood.

Lynch, a father of three, said he ran outside, jumped his fence and sprinted through a neighbor’s yard and across the street to another neighbor's driveway to get to Yarl.

James Lynch, 42, who helped Ralph Yarl after he was shot.
James Lynch, 42, who helped Ralph Yarl after he was shot.Deon J. Hampton / NBC News

His face and arms were covered in blood, and it looked as if Yarl had been shot in his head near an eye socket.

Lynch's old Eagle Scout training kicked in when Yarl suddenly came to. Lynch told him, "I'm going to grab your hand really tight." He checked Yarl's wrist for a pulse before he asked him his name and age and where he went to school.

Yarl struggled to respond before he spelled his name. Another neighbor came over with towels to help stem the bleeding, and she and Lynch waited with Yarl until paramedics arrived.

Yarl, 16, had been trying to pick up his 11-year-old twin brothers from a friend’s home but had gone to the wrong street and house. His family’s attorneys, Lee Merritt and Ben Crump, said he was shot twice after he rang the doorbell.

Ralph Yarl.
Ralph Yarl.via Ben Crump Law

A warrant was issued for Andrew Lester, an 85-year-old white man, on charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action, Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson said Monday.

Merritt said the shot to Yarl's head left him with a critical, traumatic brain injury. He was also shot in the upper arm, the attorneys said.

Faith Spoonmore, his aunt, said on a fundraising page that Yarl had gone to at least three homes before he received help.

Yarl, a student at Staley High School, loves science, takes mostly college-level courses and plays in the school band, according to North Kansas City Schools Superintendent Dan Clemens.

Protests erupted over the weekend in Kansas City, with some people saying Yarl’s race played a role in the situation.

Reflecting on Thursday night, Lynch said he doesn’t consider himself a hero.

“I didn’t do anything but hold a kid’s hand so he wouldn’t feel alone. He had just gotten shot twice; he had a hole in the side of his head,” Lynch said. “That kid is tougher than I am.”

Deon J. Hampton reported from Kansas City, Missouri. Doha Madani reported from New York City.