Old White Man Who Shot Black Teen in Kansas City Faces 2 Felony Charges
*(CNN) — A White 84-year-old homeowner who allegedly shot and wounded Ralph Yarl, a Black teen, after the 16-year-old went to the wrong home to pick up his siblings will face two felony charges, Clay County attorney Zachary Thompson announced early Monday evening.
Andrew Lester will face charges of assault in the first degree and armed criminal action. Authorities have issued a warrant for his arrest and he’s not currently in custody, Thompson said.
“I can tell you there was a racial component to this case,” Thompson said at a news conference without elaborating. When asked whether hate crime charges could be added, the prosecutor said that in Missouri, a hate crime is a lower level of felony and adding such charges could constitute double jeopardy.
There is no indication that either Lester or Ralph spoke to one another before the Thursday evening shooting, Thompson said. The prosecutor added there is no evidence that the teen entered the home and preliminary evidence shows Lester opened fire on the teen through a glass door with a .32 caliber revolver.
There is no video of the encounter, Thompson said.
Two representatives at the Kansas City Police Department detention unit previously told CNN the suspect was taken into custody on April 13 just before midnight but was released less than two hours later, at 1:24 a.m. on April 14.
Thompson said Lester was only held for several hours after he was initially detained because police recognized right away that more investigative work needed to be done.
CNN has not been able to reach the homeowner for comment. A lawyer was not listed in his previous booking report.
Family attorney Ben Crump said in a statement, “While this is certainly a step in the right direction, we will continue to fight for Ralph while he works towards a full recovery.”
CNN has requested the probable cause for the arrest warrant and also asked for the booking report and mug shot for the accused shooter, in addition to the incident report, but has not yet received it from the Kansas City Police Department.
Wounded teen released from hospital, newspaper reports
Officers responded to a home April 13, just before 10 p.m., after receiving reports of a shooting. When they arrived, they found Ralph, 16, who had been shot outside the residence by the homeowner.
Ralph was “shot twice and struck in the head and arm,” his family’s attorneys said in a statement.
The neighbor CNN spoke with said they did not hear the shooting because they were asleep. But did say once awake, “We came outside (the victim) was laying in the street surrounded by a few of our neighbors.”
Ralph has come home from the hospital, Crump said on CNN on Monday afternoon.
Crump said Ralph is still struggling with stress from the ordeal but he and his family are happy he lived after being shot in the head. They hope for a full recovery because Ralph is young and strong, he added.
“He’s not out of the woods yet, but the great thing is, (medical officials) said he was stable enough to go to his home,” he said.
The Kansas City Star reported Ralph is being cared for by his mother, who is a nurse.
Crump told CNN’s Jake Tapper it makes no sense the shooter hasn’t been arrested.
Ralph Yarl / Credit: GoFundMe
“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,” Crump said. “I mean, this citizen went home and slept in his bed at night after shooting that young Black kid in the head.”
At a weekend rally, community and family members marched to and demonstrated in front of the man’s house, calling for charges to be filed. Protesters marched as they chanted, “Justice for Ralph” and “Black lives matter,” and carried signs reading, “Ringing a doorbell is not a crime” and “The shooter should do the time,” footage from CNN affiliate KMBC shows.
The teen’s father said, “We want charges. That’s what we want.”
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas tweeted Monday afternoon that he had spoken with Ralph’s mother.
“I shared with her my personal commitment to ensuring we find justice for her son, her family, and all hurting now in our City,” he wrote.
Family seeking ‘swift action’
Police learned the teenager’s parents had asked him to pick up his siblings at an address on 115th Terrace, but he accidentally went to a home on 115th Street, where he was shot. Lawyers for Ralph’s family also say the youth was shot after he went to the wrong house.
Attorneys for the wounded youth’s family issued a statement demanding “swift action from Clay County prosecutors and law enforcement to identify, arrest and prosecute to the full extent of the law the man responsible for this horrendous and unjustifiable shooting.”
In an earlier interview with CNN, Crump said the shooting “hearkens back” to shootings like that of Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery “where you had citizens profile and shoot our Black children and the police then let them go home and sleep in their beds at night. Unacceptable.”
Asked whether the shooting may have been racially motivated, the police chief said, “the information that we have now, it does not say that that is racially motivated. That’s still an active investigation. But as a chief of police, I do recognize the racial components of this case.”
Graves sought to assure the Kansas City community Sunday the police department is committed to the case.
“We recognize the frustration this can cause in the entire criminal justice process. The women and men of the Kansas City Police Department are working as expeditiously and as thoroughly as we can, to ensure the criminal justice process continues to advance as quickly as all involved and our community deserve,” Graves said.
Youth was a band section leader
A GoFundMe started by Ralph’s aunt, Faith Spoonmore, to help the family raise money for medical expenses had garnered more than $1.5 million in donations by Monday afternoon.
Ralph had been looking forward to graduating from high school and visiting West Africa before starting college, his aunt wrote in the fundraiser.
The teen is a section leader in a marching band and could often be found with a musical instrument in hand, Spoonmore wrote. Most recently, Ralph earned Missouri All-State Band honorable mention for playing the bass clarinet, according to a North Kansas City Schools’ newsletter in February. He also plays multiple instruments in the metropolitan youth orchestra, his aunt wrote.
He is a member of his school’s Technology Student Association and Science Olympiad Team and is a 2022 Missouri Scholars Academy alumni, she wrote.
“Last summer, Ralph attended Missouri Scholar’s Academy, where he got a full college life experience,” Spoonmore wrote. “His goal is to attend Texas A&M to major in chemical Engineering. When asked how he plans to get into this university, he said, ‘Well, if they have a scholarship for music or academics, I know I can get it.’ ”
“Life looks a lot different right now. Even though he is doing well physically, he has a long road ahead mentally and emotionally. The trauma that he has to endure and survive is unimaginable,” the GoFundMe post reads.
Dan Clemens, superintendent of North Kansas City Schools, released a statement saying Ralph is “an excellent student and talented musician”
“We are devastated to learn one of our students was involved in a horrific incident last week,” Clemens wrote. “Our thoughts are with the Yarl family, and I know I speak for all of us when we wish him a full and quick recovery. Ralph is an excellent student and talented musician. He maintains a stellar GPA while taking mostly college level courses. While he loves science and hopes to pursue that career path, his passion is music. Thankfully, we know he is now recovering alongside family.”
Neighbor says she called 911
Emerging details of the incident illustrate the apparent strength and bravery shown by the high school junior after he was shot.
A neighbor, who asked not to be identified, tells CNN she called 911 after Ralph came to her door, bleeding.
She was directed to stay inside her home by the emergency operator, for her safety as the shooter’s location was unknown.
“I wanted to help him, but they kept saying that we don’t know where the shooter is at,” the woman said.
She complied initially, then went outside with towels to help suppress the bleeding.
“I kneeled down next to him, and I said what’s your name … Who shot you?”
She said Ralph explained he “was supposed to pick up my brothers.”
“We figured out then he went to the wrong street, which is no excuse for what happened,” she said. “This is somebody’s child. I had to clean blood off of my door, off of my railing. That was someone’s child’s blood. I’m a mom … this is not OK.”
While awaiting the ambulance, bleeding from injuries to the left side of his head and his right arm, the neighbor said Ralph told her he runs on the high school track team and plays the bass clarinet in band.
“He was very alert,” she said. “He is a very strong man. Very brave.”