The homeowner who allegedly shot a Missouri teenager in the head and arm has been charged after widespread public outrage and scrutiny.
The defendant, Andrew D. Lester, faces one count each of assault in the first degree and armed criminal action. Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson said at a news conference Monday that the first charge carries a possible sentence of life in prison. (The prosecutor listed Lester’s age as 85, but documents and online records show he is 84.)
Authorities said Lester is the man who shot Ralph Yarl, 16, twice. The victim’s aunt previously said the teenager, who did not have his phone, mistakenly went to Lester’s home Thursday night. He had intended to go to a friend’s nearby home to pick up his younger twin brothers.
“He pulled into the driveway and rang the doorbell,” his aunt, Faith Spoonmore, said on the GoFundMe campaign page. “The man in the home opened the door, looked my nephew in the eye and shot him in the head. My nephew fell to the ground and the man shot him again. Ralph was then able to get up and run to the neighbor’s house looking for help. Unfortunately he had to run to 3 different homes before someone finally agreed to help him after he was told to lie on the ground with his hands up.”
Authorities did not initially charge Lester, saying further investigative processes — including attempts to take a statement from Yarl and processing forensic evidence — were necessary. Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said Sunday that the homeowner was placed on 24-hour hold for a criminal investigation but had to be released under state law if no charges were filed.
Lee Merritt, an attorney for Yarl’s family, said Lester was held for less than two hours and that police took a statement from Yarl on Friday.
2 points of clarification regarding shooting of #RalphYarl:
1. The suspect was not detained for 24 hours. He was released within 2 hours after giving a statement to the police.
2. The police took a recorded statement from Ralph from his hospital bed on Friday!
— Lee Merritt (@MerrittForTexas) 17 April 2023
Thompson declined to discuss the shooting at length Monday because he did not want to “negotiate” the case in the press, but noted that the probable cause statement did not indicate words were exchanged. Lester allegedly fired the shots through a glass door. Yarl did not cross the threshold of the residence, he said. He declined to comment on whether the teenager knocked on the door or rang the bell, saying that detail may be in doubt.
Lester, who lives by himself, told police he had just gone to bed that night when his doorbell rang, according to court documents obtained by KCTV. He allegedly said he grabbed his gun — described by Thompson as a .32 revolver — and saw (as the outlet relayed it) a man about six feet tall pulling on his front door. Lester said he thought someone was trying to break in, according to documents.
He allegedly fired two shots. The teenager ran away. Lester called 911. According to documents, Lester said they did not exchange words. The teenager said nothing.
Lester reportedly said, “it was the last thing he wanted to do, but was ‘scared’ because of the man’s size and Lester’s age (84) and inability to defend himself.”
In documents, Yarl told police he had gone to the wrong address when he tried to pick up his brothers. He rang the doorbell and waited. The man inside opened the door and held a gun. Yarl told police he did not pull on the door, according to documents.
He said he was immediately shot in the head and then when he was on the ground, he was shot in the arm.
“Don’t come here,” Lester allegedly said.
When a reporter asked him about a possible hate crime charge, Thompson said it would be a lesser charge, and when pressed, added “at that point, you’d be talking about double jeopardy issues.”
Yarl is black. Thompson said Lester is white.
“As a Clay County prosecutor, I can tell you there was a racial component to the case,” he said.
There was a warrant out for his arrest and bond was set at $200,000, Thompson said, but noted that law enforcement had not arrested Lester yet. His mugshot is from Thursday. His name does not appear in Clay County, Missouri, jail records for the past seven days.
“I have no information that he is in custody in any of our detention facilities and I have been in contact with the Clay County Sheriffs who run their jail and last time he checked he was not in custody there either, Kansas City police spokesman Jacob Becchina told Law&Crime in an email.
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