Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson announced the charges against Andrew D. Lester late Monday afternoon after days of national outcry.
An 84-year-old white Northland resident was charged with two felony counts in the shooting of a Black 16-year-old, Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson announced Monday.
Andrew D. Lester was charged with assault in the first degree and with armed criminal action. He’s accused of shooting Ralph Yarl twice late Thursday night after Yarl mistakenly knocked on his front door.
The assault charge is a class A felony, Thompson said. If found guilty, Lester faces no fewer than 10 years and up to 30 years or life in prison.
“As with any serious case, we approached this one in an objective and impartial manner,” Thompson said. “We look forward to obtaining a just result.”
Thompson said there will be no hate crime charge filed — which many had called for — because hate crime charges in Missouri carry a lower range of penalties than the two felonies.
Yarl was supposed to pick up his twin brothers at a home on 115th Terrace, but went to the wrong address. According to the family, Lester shot Yarl once in the head and again after he fell. Police said they questioned the shooter and held him for 24 hours, but ultimately released him.
Andrew D. Lester, 85, was charged Monday with two felonies in connection with the shooting of Black teen Ralph Yarl.
Lester’s house was defaced with graffiti Monday. The yellow house with green shutters has a fenced-in yard and a sign posted that says, “This property is protected by surveillance cameras.”
Neighbors described him as a nice elderly man who was a military veteran.
James Everhart, who lives three doors down from the house where the shooting took place, said he doesn’t believe race played a role in the shooting.
“There ain’t no race to this story,” Everhart said. “The seemingly-hate activists who show up and protest only divide people. The guy was scared. The guy just shot somebody!”
Ralph Yarl was shot Thursday, April 13, when he mistakenly rang the doorbell of a home in Clay County. He was picking up his brothers, who were at an address about a block away.
Thompson said there “was a racial component to the case.” Thompson said he knows many people were frustrated by the length of time it took to file charges, but he said the criminal justice system was working.
“My heart goes out to the child and family involved in this case,” Thompson said. “My goal during this process has been and will remain to be seeking justice for him.”
Yarl’s case garnered national media attention and went viral on social media.
Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted that she and her husband, Doug, are praying for the Yarl family.
“Let’s be clear: No child should ever live in fear of being shot for ringing the wrong doorbell,” Harris tweeted. “Every child deserves to be safe. That’s the America we are fighting for.”
Other groups roundly criticized the handling of the case. The African Methodist Episcopal Church Ministerial Alliance of the Midwest Conference referenced other well-known killings of Black boys.
“At what point do we admit that the color of fear is always black?” the group said in a statement. “In these moments, we remember that Emmett Till was just a little boy. Trayvon Martin was just a little boy. Tamir Rice was just a little boy.”
A GoFundMe fundraiser to support Ralph Yarl raised more than $1.6 million by Monday afternoon. His aunt Faith Spoonmore started the fundraiser on Sunday to cover medical bills and therapy expenses.
“Life looks a lot different right now. Even though he is doing well physically, he has a long road ahead mentally and emotionally,” Spoonmore wrote on the fundraiser page. “The trauma that he has to endure and survive is unimaginable.” Yarl’s family retained well-known civil rights attorneys Benjamin Crump, the Tallahassee-based lawyer who represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, George Floyd and Tyre Nichols; and Lee Merritt, who represented Atatiana Jefferson and Ahmaud Arbery’s families and is currently running for Texas Attorney General.
The two lawyers called the Thursday shooting “horrendous and unjustified” in a statement released Sunday.
“There can be no excuse for the release of this armed and dangerous suspect after admitting to shooting an unarmed, non-threatening and defenseless teenager that rang his doorbell!” the attorneys wrote.
Ralph Yarl is an Outstanding Young Man
Ralph Yarl, a junior at Staley High School in North Kansas City, is described as a high-achieving student and a talented musician.
He is a section leader in his school’s marching band and is also in its jazz and competition band, his aunt Faith Spoonmore wrote on a GoFundMe page raising money to cover his medical costs. Yarl recently earned Missouri All-State Band recognition and plays multiple instruments in the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra.
Ralph Yarl was shot Thursday, April 13 when he mistakenly rang the doorbell of a home in Clay County. He was picking up his brothers, who were at an address about a block away.
His family noted that he is also a member of the Technology Student Association and Science Olympiad Team. Spoonmore wrote that her nephew’s 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,’” Spoonmore said.
North Kansas City Schools Superintendent Dan Clemens said in a statement that the district is “devastated” to learn about the shooting.