Andrew Lester’s family ‘disgusted’ by shooting: ‘We stand with Ralph Yarl’

Andrew Lester’s grandson claims his grandfather has a history of making ‘racist comments’ and of an interest in ‘QAnon-level conspiracy theories’

Rachel Sharp
Thursday 20 April 2023 16:25 BST
Ralph Yarl's mother describes son's injuries from shooting

The family of suspected shooter Andrew Lester have said they are “disgusted” by the 84-year-old’s shooting of Black teenager Ralph Yarl.

Mr Lester’s grandson Klint Ludwig spoke to CNN on Thursday about his reaction when he learned his grandfather was responsible for the shooting that has shocked the nation and renewed debates around racial justice, gun rights and Stand Your Ground laws.

“I was disgusted. I thought it was terrible,” said Mr Ludwig.

“Myself and my family stand with Ralph Yarl and seeking justice. This is a horrible tragedy, it never should have happened.”

Mr Ludwig, who said he is estranged from his grandfather over the 84-year-old’s right-wing views, said he was speaking out against what his relative has done because it is the “right thing to do”.

“[In] this country, it happens over and over again where people get away with killing unarmed, innocent Black people… people need to speak out and not make any excuses for this kind of behaviour and this violence,” he said.

Mr Ludwig claimed that his grandfather has a history of making “racist comments” and interest in “QAnon-level conspiracy theories”.

“I believe he holds racist tendencies and beliefs,” he said, adding that he has bought into “conspiracies and weird random, racist things”.

“A lot of it was like the QAnon-level conspiracies of election denying and he got really weird about some Fauci dogs... And I would push back on some of that stuff and he couldn’t handle being pushed back on and at a certain point we kind fof lost touch and I think it was more his choice than mine,” he said.

Mr Lester has also made offensive comments about minorities in the past, he said, including having what he described as “a hot take about abortion and about Black women having abortions”.

In part, Mr Ludwig said he attributes his grandfather’s actions to being “scared” because of “this 24 hour news cycle of fear and paranoia” from right-wing networks.

Andrew Lester appears in court for his arraignment
Andrew Lester appears in court for his arraignment (AP)

“I feel like a lot of people of that generation are caught up in this 24 hour news cycle of fear and paranoia perpetuated by some other news stations,” he told Don Lemon.

“He would sit and watch Fox News all day every day blaring in his living room.

“I think that stuff really reinforces that negative view of minority groups and leads people – it doesn’t necessarily lead people to be racist, but it reinforces and galvanises racist people in their beliefs.”

Mr Lester appeared in court for the first time on Wednesday over the shooting of the Black teenager.

He pleaded not guilty to two felonies of first-degree assault and armed criminal action and was released on bond.

His next court appearance is scheduled for 1 June.

The 84-year-old is facing life in prison on the charges but is also said to be under investigation for a possible hate crime.

Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing Ralph’s family, told reporters outside Clay County Court on Wednesday that the Justice Department is looking into the case.

Andrew Lester appears in court to answer charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action on Wednesday

“Before I even made it to Kansas City, we reached out to the Department of Justice, myself and my co-counsel Ben Crump, we have some longstanding relationships there,” Mr Merritt said.

“We thought that this was something the DOJ should be looking into. They are (looking into it). It’s under investigation, they’ve received our complaint and now they’re looking into it.”

While the Kansas City police chief initially said that there was no evidence to indicate that the shooting was racially motivated, Clay County prosecutor Zachary Thompson confirmed when announcing charges that “there was a racial component to the case”.

Ralph Yarl was shot twice last week by the white homeowner
Ralph Yarl was shot twice last week by the white homeowner (Ben Crump Law)

Officials have not elaborated on what they mean by this.

Mr Lester is accused of shooting the 16-year-old high school junior twice on 13 April when the boy went to pick up his younger twin brothers from a friend’s house.

Kansas City Police said that Ralph had gone to collect his siblings from a friend’s house on 115th Terrace in Kansas City, Missouri, but got muddled up with the address and accidentally went to a home on 115th Street by mistake.

There, Ralph allegedly rang the doorbell and the Mr Andrew Lester opened fire on him, shooting him twice.

The Black teenager was rushed to hospital in critical condition.

The shooting and the treatment of the white homeowner has sparked outrage from celebrities, civil rights attorneys and the victim’s family.

While Ralph spent days in hospital and is now recovering from his injuries at home, Mr Lester was detained for less than two hours after the shooting – before being released without charge.

Mr Lester was finally charged on Monday afternoon with two felonies but more than 20 hours passed before he was taken into custody, when he surrendered to authorities.

He was released again less than two hours later after posting $200,000 bond.

Donations have been flooding in on a GoFundMe campaign, set up to help pay for the boy’s recovery.

As of Thursday morning, a staggering $3.35m had been raised.

On the campaign page, a woman who identified herself as Ralph’s aunt described the teenager as a “fantastic kid” who had dreams of doing to Texas A&M University to major in chemical Engineering.

“At school, he is a member of the Technology Student Association and Science Olympia Team. Jazz and competition band. He is a section leader in the marching band; a scholar and one of the top base clarinet players in Missouri. He recently earned Missouri All-State Band recognition with an honorable mention. He plays multiple instruments in the metropolitan youth orchestra. He is a 2022 Missouri scholar academy alumni. Ralph can often be found with a musical instrument. He loves them all,” the page reads.

“Last summer, Ralph attended Missouri Scholar’s Academy, where he got a full college life experience. His goal is to attend Texas A&M to major in chemical Engineering.

Protesters rally in support of the Black teenager

“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.” Ralph’s teacher and friends describe him as “ a kind soul,” “quiet,” “friendly,” “well-mannered,” “always willing to help,” “super smart,” and a “musical genius.” Ralph was looking forward to graduating high school and finally getting the opportunity to visit West Africa before starting college.

“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. He is our miracle. We have heard these types of stories many times, and unfortunately, most black boys are not alive to get another chance.

“Ralph deserves to have the future that he has dreams about. He deserves to be the light that shows the world that LOVE wins and that humanity is still Good. However, he will need a lot of help to get there. Funds from this account will be used for his medical bills and therapy. Any additional funds will be use for college expenses at Texas A&M, a trip to West Africa, and other expenses.”

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