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Nick’s Picks | Global Outrage Over Shooting of Black Teenager in KC Civil Rights Protests a Week Before NFL Draft

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Above image credit: "Kansas City Week in Review" host Nick Haines. (John McGrath | Flatland)
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6 minute read

We live in an era where we cast judgment before we know all the details, but the shooting of a local Black teenager on the doorstep of a white homeowner is now starting to make global news. It could also spark a new round of civil rights protests this week.  

Teenager Ralph Yarl was reportedly shot in the head twice after going to the wrong house to pick up his two younger siblings in a Northland Kansas City neighborhood. 

The mistake has left the 16-year-old in an area hospital with a life-threatening injury and his family claiming he was the victim of a hate crime.  

Some reports claim that after being shot in the head, Yarl was forced to knock on three doors before he was helped, but even then, according to one account, the teenager was told to lie on the ground with his hands up before the homeowner would call for an ambulance. 

Kansas City police are continuing to investigate the case and are still sorting out the details. But Police Chief Stacey Graves says the information her department has currently gathered doesn’t point to a “racially motivated” crime. She says investigators are also considering whether the homeowner was protected by Missouri’s Stand Your Ground law. 

In the meantime, one of the nation’s top civil rights attorneys has been retained by the teen’s family. Ben Crump represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. 

Last Week, Reviewed

Spring Cleaning 

With the NFL Draft just around the corner, this is a big week to clean up in Kansas City. 

Stung by criticism that the sides of our highways are looking like landfills, the Missouri Department of Transportation is calling in reinforcements to remove the litter. The department is dispatching more crews to Kansas City before out-of-town guests arrive. They’re expected to pick up roughly 1,000 pounds of trash a day. 

The city is also hosting its “Great Kansas City Cleanup,” where you can help spruce up your neighborhood before the NFL Draft.  

To make it easier, the city will supply you with trash bags, gloves and t-shirts and provide drop-off locations for the trash bags. 

To join a project near you or to start your own, visit: 

NFL Draft Disruptions 

I’ve been alerting you for weeks of road closures around the NFL Draft site. Now get ready for disruption inside some of the Kansas City attractions that will play host to the nationally televised event. 

Starting today, the NFL will take occupancy over much of the interior of Union Station. The league is building a living room space inside the historic attraction where the draft prospects will sit and wait with their families.  

While Science City and other ticketed spaces will still be open, Union Station’s two main restaurants — Harvey’s and the Whistle Stop Café — will close to the public on Thursday. The entire building will be closed to visitors beginning this Sunday evening.  

Safety Concerns 

When Kansas City launched its bid to host the NFL Draft, the biggest concerns were over the supply of hotel rooms and whether Kansas City had the transportation infrastructure to support more than 300,000 out-of-town visitors.  

Now Kansas City’s biggest worry has turned to safety and security.  

One of the largest sporting events in Kansas City history is arriving just as Kansas City is experiencing a historic homicide wave. Over the weekend, there were three fatal shootings in just 24 hours, one of them within a mile of where the NFL’s Draft is happening on the grounds of Liberty Memorial. 

When it comes to crime, our community is now in uncharted territory. Not only is Kansas City outpacing last year’s murder count, but it’s also outpacing 2020, which was the deadliest year ever recorded in our city. 

To put the numbers in perspective, when you adjust for population size, Kansas City is seeing twice as many murders as Chicago and eight times as many killings as New York City. 

Making people feel safe is now a top priority as the NFL Draft prepares to get underway. 

League officials are skittish. They’re spearheading what is likely to be the most elaborate and expensive security operation the city has ever seen.  

A mix of local police, federal law enforcement agencies, private security and undercover officers are working behind the scenes on the public safety plan. The ATF has acknowledged it will use five K9 units to sniff out explosives and firearms in security sweeps before and during the draft. 

Unlike other big sporting events in Kansas City such as the Chiefs Super Bowl parade, public access will be strictly controlled.  

Union Station and the grounds of Liberty Memorial will be encircled by seven miles of barricades and metal fencing. While all events are free, fans must sign up in advance on an NFL app and show their digital pass at a security gate to gain access.  

If you head by Union Station this week, you’ll see the mountains of metal fencing that will be moved into place over the next few days. 

The NFL Draft starts on Thursday, April 27. 

police line do not cross tape
A police line do not cross tape. (File photo)

Transgender Treatment Cutoffs 

Missouri is just days away from becoming the first state in the nation to restrict transgender medical procedures not just on children, but adults too. 

New Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey has invoked an emergency rule set to go into effect on April 27 that will require trans patients to receive 18 months of mental health counseling before they can receive puberty-blocking drugs, hormones or surgeries. 

Transgender rights advocates have vowed to challenge the rule in court.  

The rule comes as Missouri lawmakers continue to debate more restrictions on transgender health and the ability of trans athletes to compete in girls’ sports. 

Meanwhile in Kansas, two transgender restriction bills currently sit on Gov. Laura Kelly’s desk. She has yet to announce whether she will sign or veto them.  

One requires transgender Kansans to use restrooms and changing rooms that align with their biological sex. The other revokes the medical license of physicians who perform gender-altering procedures on minors. 

Kelly has already vetoed a bill restricting trans athletes from competing in girls’ sports. But it was overturned by the legislature and will become law in July.  

Tax Day 

Tuesday is that day that ranks right up there with root canals.  

It’s Tax Day! 

As April 15 fell on a weekend and Monday was officially a holiday in Washington D.C., you have until midnight Tuesday to complete your paperwork or file an extension with the IRS. 

Ramadan Ends 

It’s a big week for thousands of Kansas City Muslim families as a month of dawn-to-sunset fasting comes to an end. Ramadan officially ends Friday night marking the beginning of the Eid-al-Fitr holiday.  

Earth Day  

It’s time once again to celebrate the planet.  

Earth Day is this Saturday. 

And Kansas City is going big this year to celebrate the global environmental holiday.  

It’s hosting an Earth Day Week with dozens of fairs, workshops and volunteer opportunities.  

Check out the Climate Council website for the full calendar of events. 

You can also celebrate Earth Day on Saturday at the inaugural Earth Beat Festival. It’s been pitched as KC’s first waste-free block party and green vendor market. Head to the West Bottoms from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. to check out the free event — featuring food, drinks, yoga and wellness workshops, along with live demonstrations on everything from beekeeping to how to grow your own tea garden.  

420 Day 

In addition to Earth Day, we mark 420 Day this week.  

The number 420 is street culture slang for marijuana, and it’s become weed’s biggest holiday. 

Now that pot is legal in Missouri, Kansas City has attracted one of the music world’s biggest marijuana ambassadors to celebrate. 

Grammy-winning rapper Wiz Khalifa will be in town on Thursday to headline the inaugural 420 Fest at the soon-to-be-unveiled Smokey River Entertainment District. It claims to be the region’s first permanent venue for cannabis-friendly events. It’s in River Bend, Missouri, a tiny village in far eastern Jackson County, sandwiched between Liberty and Independence. 

Along with a day’s worth of musical performances, the Fest will include a “Cannabis Village,” featuring vendors from across the state and special lounge areas where you can partake in cannabis consumption. 

Close up of a hand holding a lighter up to the end of a joint.
Recreational marijuana sales are already taking off in Missouri. (Emily Woodring | Flatland)

Hearts on the Move 

A fleet of trucks will begin moving and unloading 40 gigantic hearts onto the streets of Kansas City today. 

The 400-pound fiberglass artworks are the latest creations in round two of the Parade of Hearts public art project. 

You can look for them around the Country Club Plaza and the downtown area. They’re not as spread out this year. Organizers say they picked locations most likely to be seen by out-of-town visitors coming in for the NFL Draft. 

Nick Haines tracks the week’s most impactful local news stories on “Kansas City Week in Review,” Friday at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.

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