Fear Pervades Elderly Community Amid Focus on Kansas City Shooter's Age

'We were already fearing for our lives. Now, it’s even worse.'

April 18, 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo.—A black teenager was shot last week while attempting to pick his brothers up at the wrong house in Kansas City. On Monday, police said the suspect was an octogenarian.

This detail, according to elderly people in the state and across the country, has pumped toxic gas into an already incendiary situation that has led many of them to fear for their safety.

Just as members of the "trans community" were terrorized by trans school shooter Audrey Hale's killing spree in Nashville last month, old people are the real victims of this tragedy.

"I'm fighting for my right to exist," said Rufus T. Groggins, 92, of Joplin. "My family won't speak to me. Now the entire Democratic Party wants me dead. I haven't felt this scared since the Battle of Kapyong, 1951."

Police charged Andrew D. Lester, 84, with felony assault and armed criminal action for allegedly shooting 16-year-old Ralph Yarl after the teen showed up outside his home on the evening of April 13. Yarl, who suffered gunshot wounds to the head and arm, was released from the hospital on Sunday and is expected to make a full recovery.

The incident occurred amid an alarming increase in anti-elder rhetoric, much of it fueled by Democratic politicians and liberal activists. Dianne Feinstein, the 89-year-old senator from California, has been bombarded with flagrantly ageist demands that she resign because her advanced age and probable dementia makes her unfit to serve.

"It has become painfully obvious to many of us in California that [Feinstein] is no longer able to fulfill her duties," Rep. Ro Khanna (D., Calif.) seethed during an interview on CNN, echoing the ageist attacks that have been lobbed against President Joe Biden, 80, as he prepares to launch his campaign for reelection.

President Joe Biden, 80, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, 89, have been victimized by anti-elderly attacks.

Amidst this noxious fervor of anti-octogenarian rage, liberal commentators seized on Lester's advanced age in an effort to bolster their political agenda. Prominent social media user @JoJoFromJerz viciously mocked the wrinkled features and dazed expression visible in Lester's mug shot.

"If this isn’t the face of evil, I don’t know what is," the Democratic influencer wrote in a Twitter post, several months after visiting the White House. This prompted user @wiley_coyote22 to suggest that elderly Americans should be stripped of their constitutional rights. "That's just a man too old to have guns," quipped the self-described "Very Gay" "Social Libertarian."

Octogenarian brothers Enoch Q. and Jasper G. Swanson of Springfield said they no longer feel safe walking their dogs in the local park. "We were already fearing for our lives," said Jasper. "Now it's even worse."

"We are terrified for the octogenarian community here," said Joy Summer, a pro-elderly activist based in St. Louis. "Nursing homes are calling in snipers, putting up razor wire, it's like a war zone. More blood's going to be shed."

Elderly Americans across the country are feeling increasingly vulnerable amid what feels like an alarming rise in anti-elder violence. In June 2022, a group of teens attacked a 73-year-old man in Philadelphia and beat him to death with a traffic cone. In October 2020, the beloved actor Rick Moranis, 67 at the time, was sucker-punched while walking near Central Park in Manhattan.

"It sure would be nice if half the country wasn't so hostile to the survival of seniors," said Beryl H. Boykins, 97, of Topeka. "But I swear to God if some TikTok junkie tries to get in my face and play the Knock Out Game or whatever, he's going to regret it."

Just as concerning as the epidemic of anti-senior violence is the stunning rise in incidents of elder abuse in recent years. A 2019 study by the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention revealed a significant "increase in violence" against elderly Americans. The assault rate among men aged 60 and older surged 75 percent between 2002 and 2016, while the homicide rate jumped nearly 10 percent between 2010 and 2016, the study found.

Dr. Ronan Factora, chair of the Special Interest Group on Elder Abuse and Mistreatment at the American Geriatrics Society, argued the CDC study underestimated incidents of violence against seniors due to the significant number of cases that go unreported. "This is really a small fraction that represents a larger problem that has been growing," he said.

"Please don't kill me," said Milton F. Percy, 76, of Chicago.