Charges filed in shooting of Kansas City teen who rang wrong doorbell

The Missouri man who shot a teenager who rang the wrong doorbell while trying to pick up his younger brothers was charged Monday with two felony counts, officials said.

An 85-year-old white man, Andrew Lester, has been charged with two crimes in the April 13 shooting of Ralph Yarl, 16, who is Black: assaulted in the first degree and armed criminal action, Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson said monday.

A warrant was issued for Lester, who was not in custody, Thompson said, adding that he didn’t know where Lester was.

Lester’s bond was set at $200,000, Thompson said.

Thompson said there was a racial component to the shooting but declined to elaborate. Lester faces a maximum punishment of life in prison in the assault charge and three to 15 years for the alleged gun crime, Thompson said.

Thompson said no words were exchanged before Lester allegedly opened fire with a .32 revolver, striking Yarl twice — once in the head and once in the arm.

Earlier, an attorney for the teen’s family said Yarl’s mother asked him to pick up his 11-year-old twin brothers on Thursday. He went to a home in the 1100 block of Northeast 115th Street instead of Northeast 115th Terrace in Kansas City, Missouri, police said.

He rang the doorbell shortly before 10 pm and waited for someone to respond, the attorney, Lee Merritt, told NBC News.

“Whoever was inside took a little longer than he anticipated to respond, and so he just waited at the door,” Merritt said, citing a statement Yarl gave to law enforcement investigators from his hospital bed on Friday.

“He heard rustling around going on in the house and then finally the door was open,” the attorney said. “And he was confronted by a man who told him, ‘Don’t come back around here,’ and then he immediately fired his weapon.”

A police officer on April 17, 2023, walks past the house where 16-year-old Ralph Yarl was shot when he went to the wrong address to pick up his younger brothers in Kansas City, Mo.  (Charlie Riedel / AP)

A police officer on April 17, 2023, walks past the house where 16-year-old Ralph Yarl was shot when he went to the wrong address to pick up his younger brothers in Kansas City, Mo. (Charlie Riedel / AP)

Yarl was shot in the head, which cracked his skull and left him with a critical, traumatic brain injury, the attorney said. While the teenager was still on the ground, the homeowner opened fire a second time, striking Yarl in the upper right arm, Merritt said.

How the encounter turned violent so quickly still confuses Yarl as he recovers, his aunt, Faith Spoonmore, said.

“We’ll remind him like, ‘Ralph, you’re alive, buddy.’ And then he has the times where he’s like, ‘Why? I did nothing wrong. why? I did nothing wrong.’ And he just cannot understand why,” Spoonmore said. “So it’s waves. He goes through waves.”

Merritt said Yarl is now in stable condition and out of the hospital.

The shooter was taken into custody and held for 24 hours, the maximum for a suspect in a felony until charges are filed, Police Chief Stacey Graves said.

Yarl said the person who shot him was a white man who “seemed angry and hostile” by his presence on the property, his attorney said.

Merritt said the teenager miraculously saved his own life by fleeing and banging on at least three neighbors’ doors for help.

At the third home, Merritt said the neighbor told Yarl to lie on the ground and put his hands in the air. He complied and then passed out, the attorney said.

Ralph Yarl.  (Ben Crump Law via AP)

Ralph Yarl. (Ben Crump Law via AP)

Merritt said the neighborhood where the shooting occurred was predominantly white and conservative and “commonly referred to among locals as God’s country.”

“We’ve heard reports from Black people who live in the neighborhood, who visit the neighborhood, that there seems to be a standing hostility towards the Black presence in that community,” he said.

Karen Skinner, who has lived on 115th Street for more than 30 years, said the shooting in her neighborhood surprised her given how her block is typically quiet and crime isn’t an issue.

“It’s a neighborhood in which I’m not going to even walk on my neighbor’s yard because they’re all very well manicured,” Skinner said, adding that the street includes many older white homeowners whose children have since grown up.

In recent years, newer families have been moving in, including a Black family, she said, but most residents keep to themselves.

“This was an absolute shock,” she said of the shooting.

Skinner said she was still awake in the late evening of April 13 doing laundry but didn’t hear gunfire or screams. Another friend messaged her on Facebook to check if the emergency lights flooding the neighborhood were for her home. When Skinner said she went outside to check on what happened, the teen had already been taken to the hospital.

Skinner said he had never interacted with the homeowner who shot Yarl, despite living in the same neighborhood for decades. Since the shooting, he has been trying to make sense of why someone felt using a firearm was necessary.

“If you don’t know what’s at the door and you’re that scared, then don’t open the door,” she said. “I’m afraid that the race played a part of that.”

She added, “I wish the kid had come to my house.”

Meanwhile, the teenager’s aunt said he has received an outpouring of love and support from his teachers, friends and classmates.

Yarl, a junior at Staley High School in Kansas City, is an excellent student and talented musician, the superintendent of North Kansas City Schools said in a statement Monday.

“He maintains a stellar GPA while taking mostly college-level courses,” Dan Clemens said. “While he loves science and hopes to pursue that career path, his passion is music. Thankfully, we know he is now recovering alongside his family.”

Ralph Yarl (via GoFundMe)

Ralph Yarl (via GoFundMe)

Megan Lilien, his former teacher, said Yarl is a “gentle soul” and gifted student who wants to study chemical engineering in college.

Lilien, who taught Yarl at the Missouri Scholars Academy, a three-week residential program for academically gifted students, said he was a “highly intelligent” and observant student, curious about the world.

The shooting has sparked outrage on social media, a weekend protest and calls for the shooter’s arrest.

Merritt urged authorities to investigate whether the race played a role and why the man decided to pull the trigger twice.

“He’s going to have to say that he looked out, he saw a black silhouette and he feared for his life,” the attorney said.

Originally published

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