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White Kansas City man charged with 2 felonies for shooting Black teen Ralph Yarl

The home at 1100 NE 115th Street in Kansas City's Northland where Ralph Yarl was shot shows evidence of being tagged and egged.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The home at 1100 NE 115th Street in Kansas City's Northland where Ralph Yarl was shot shows evidence of being tagged and egged.

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 shotting of Black teen Ralph Yarl.
Kansas City Police Department
Andrew D. Lester, 85, was charged Monday with two felonies in connection with the shotting 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!”

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.

A Black teen, wearing a black suit jacket, looks straight ahead while holding a wind instrument. In the background are members of a high school band.
Faith Spoonmore
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.

“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 $1.8 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.”

Corrected: April 17, 2023 at 7:12 PM CDT
A previous version of this story stated that Lester was 85. He is 84.
I’m a veteran investigative reporter who came up through newspapers and moved to public media. I want to give people a better understanding of the criminal justice system by focusing on its deeper issues, like institutional racism, the poverty-to-prison pipeline and police accountability. Today this beat is much different from how reporters worked it in the past. I’m telling stories about people who are building significant civil rights movements and redefining public safety. Email me at lowep@kcur.org.
I’ve been at KCUR almost 30 years, working partly for NPR and splitting my time between local and national reporting. I work to bring extra attention to people in the Midwest, my home state of Kansas and of course Kansas City. What I love about this job is having a license to talk to interesting people and then crafting radio stories around their voices. It’s a big responsibility to uphold the truth of those stories while condensing them for lots of other people listening to the radio, and I take it seriously. Email me at frank@kcur.org or find me on Twitter @FrankNewsman.
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