A white homeowner has been charged with first-degree assault for shooting 16-year-old black boy Ralph Yarl when he mistakenly rung his doorbell in Kansas City, Missouri.
Andrew Lester, 85, is facing two felony charges and a warrant has been issued for his arrest, Clay County prosecutor Zachary Thompson revealed on Monday.
The prosecutor confirmed that there was indeed a racial factor in the ordeal – after the teenage musical scholar was shot twice, in the head and arm, after ringing the wrong doorbell when he went to pick up his younger brothers.
‘I can tell you there was a racial component to the case,’ said Thompson.
Lester’s bond is set at $200,000. If convicted, Lester could face life in prison for the assault charge, and 3 to 15 years for armed criminal action.
He is accused of shooting scholar and musician Yarl twice through glass at the front of the house, just a block away from the property his younger twin brothers were waiting to be picked up.
Andrew Lester, 85, has been charged with two felony counts over the April 13 shooting of Ralph Yarl, which Kansas City prosecutors said was racially motivated
Ralph Yarl, 16, was shot twice in the head by a white man after he approached the wrong house by mistake when going to collect his siblings
Andrew Lester, 85, has been charged with two felony counts over the April 13 shooting of Ralph Yarl (right), which Kansas City prosecutors said was racially motivated
He pulled into the driveway of the home around 10pm on April 13, rang the doorbell, and was immediately shot in the head by the homeowner.
‘He continues to improve. He’s responsive and he’s making good progress,’ said his father, Paul.
‘It was appropriate for the prosecutor to charge him and the only tragedy was that it took so long for them to charge him,’ Crump said.
‘I think it is appropriate, you can’t send a message to society that it’s okay to shoot black people in the head just for ringing your doorbell.’
President Joe Biden rang the Yarl family on Monday, and invited them to the White House when Ralph is well enough.
‘Moments after the family got off the phone with President Biden, who offered his prayers for Ralph’s health and for justice, we learned that the prosecutor will be charging the man who is responsible for the deplorable shooting of this innocent boy,’ Crump added.
‘Gun violence against unarmed black individuals must stop.
‘Our children should feel safe, not as though they are being hunted.
‘While this is certainly a step in the right direction, we will continue to fight for Ralph while he works towards a full recovery.’
Thompson, asked why Lester was not charged with attempted murder, said they had decided to charge him with an ‘A felony’ because it was the most serious crime.
‘It is the highest level of offense in the state of Missouri,’ said Thompson.
‘Other charges may not carry that same level of range of punishment.’
Zachary Thompson, Clay County prosecutor, announced charges against Andrew Lester on Monday afternoon
Ralph, center, was said to be trying to pick up his younger siblings from a friend’s house but went to the wrong address
The house is Kansas City, Missouri had a ‘no solicitors’ sign on top of the doorbell which Ralph mistakenly rang
The property also had a sign claiming it was ‘protected by surveillance cameras’
The doorbell had a small ‘no solicitors’ sign on top, while another sign claimed the property was ‘protected by surveillance cameras.’
The teenager’s family said he was collecting his younger siblings but went to the wrong address.
Lester was taken in for questioning immediately after the shooting, but was released two hours after he was arrested – without any charges.
Police took a statement from Ralph in hospital last Friday before he was released from hospital on Monday, to continue to recover at home with his mother – who is a nurse.
Yarl said he was immediately shot in the head and fell to the ground where he was shot a second time, this time in the right arm. Yarl told police the man said: ‘Don’t come around here.’
Famous faces picked up the cause, with actresses Viola Davis, Jennifer Hudson and Halle Berry calling for justice for Ralph after hundreds of protesters marched outside the home of the suspected shooter on Sunday with the victim’s family to demand action.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said he hopes ‘the justice system does right by him.’
More than $1.7million has been raised by a GoFundMe account to help Ralph and his family with the medical bills.
More than $1.7million have been raised by a GoFundMe account to help Ralph and his family with the medical bills, but has been released from hospital
Lawyer for the family, Lee Merritt, also confirmed that the suspect was detained for just two hours before being released, and that cops took a statement from Ralph on Friday from his hospital bed
MISSOURI ‘STAND YOUR GROUND’ LAWS
Missouri is one of twenty US states which has stand-your-ground laws, which removes the duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense.
The law permits homeowners to protect themselves, or a third party (with exceptions) with deadly force should a person feel it is necessary.
According to Missouri Revised Statutes 563.031 residents must be faced with a threat before shooting trespassers on the property.
It states: ‘[Protective] force is used against a person who unlawfully enters, remains after unlawfully entering, or attempts to unlawfully enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle lawfully occupied by such person.’
‘Stand-your-ground’ laws roughly define how an individual can defend themselves when faced with an imminent threat anywhere else; imminent being a keyword here because even threatening words towards a defending person can lead to a justified homicide.
Davis and Berry had put pressure on Thompson to bring ‘appropriate charges’, but his department said it was waiting for the case file which they now have.
The teenager’s family branded the incident a ‘hate crime’.
Ralph’s aunt, Dr Faith Spoonmore, claims when the teenager fell to the floor, he was shot again – but miraculously managed to run next door to a neighbor for help.
She said her nephew had to knock on three doors before he was helped, and even then was told to lie on the floor with his hands above his head.
‘This was not an ‘error’. This is a hate crime. You don’t shoot a child in the head because he rang your doorbell,’ she said.
‘He walked up to the door, rang the doorbell. A man opened up the door, looked him in the eye and said don’t ever come back here as he shot him in the head.
‘My nephew fell down and the man shot him again, he was able to get up and ran to the neighbor, who did not open the door. He ran to three houses before one of the neighbors said put your hands up and lay on the ground.
‘And then he lay on the ground like he passed out before the neighbor called the police for help.
‘You hear these stories about racism in America and you think wow, how sad is that?
‘But then you have this little bit of hope because you feel like it’s very far away and it would never happen to your family and you. But God, the people in this country are sick.’
On their GoFundMe page they say that he is ‘doing well physically’ but has a ‘long road ahead mentally and emotionally.’
A police officer is parked outside of the property where Ralph Yarl was shot when he rang the doorbell
A talented bass clarinet player, Ralph also leads a section of his school’s marching band and plays multiple instruments in the Northland Symphony Youth Orchestra
The teenager’s family branded the incident a ‘hate crime’ after he was shot in the head and arm
Ralph was known among his peers for his intellect and for being a ‘musical genius’, before he was shot in the head and arm.
The teen had received a letter from Yale Undergraduate Admissions Board identifying him as a ‘good candidate’ for the prestigious university.
Ralph is part of his high school’s Technology Student Association and Science Olympia Team, plays in the marching, jazz, and competition band, and is one of the top base clarinet players in Missouri.
He had big dreams of attending college after being recognized as a Missouri scholar academy alumni in 2022.
Ralph’s attorneys specialize in civil rights and previously represented the families of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Cameron Lamb.
His family has retained the services of civil rights attorneys Lee Merritt and Ben Crump, who have represented the families of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Cameron Lamb
Police Chief Stacey Graves said in a news conference on Sunday: ‘I want everyone to know that I am listening and I understand the concern we are receiving from the community.
‘After consulting with the Clay County Prosecutor’s Office, the homeowner was released pending further investigation due to the need to obtain a formal statement from the victim, forensic evidence and compile additional information for a case file to be presented.
‘Detectives have been working over the past several days to compile a detailed case file so they have all the information they need to make the best charging decision on the case moving forward.
‘We want the community to know that we are committed to justice in this case, and every case and work every day to seek that justice for all victims of all crimes.’
She noted that Missouri law allows a person to be held up to 24 hours for a felony investigation, and following that they must be arrested or formally charged.
Investigators will also consider whether or not the suspect was protected within the Stand Your Ground laws.
Officials would not confirm the number of times the homeowner shot the victim or where his injuries were.