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Ralph Yarl – update: Andrew Lester’s family ‘disgusted’ by shooting as stand your ground laws in spotlight

Ralph Yarl’s recovery continues at home in Kansas City while a GoFundMe to help pay his medical bills has now topped $3.4m

Rachel Sharp,Graeme Massie,Namita Singh
Friday 21 April 2023 19:49 BST
Ralph Yarl: Prosecutors charge Kansas City homeowner for shooting teen

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 told CNN that “myself and my family stand with Ralph Yarl and seeking justice”.

“This is a horrible tragedy, it never should have happened,” he said.

Mr Ludwig also revealed details about his grandfather’s “racist comments” and interest in “QAnon-level conspiracy theories” prior to the 13 April shooting.

The 84-year-old is accused of shooting Ralph, 16, twice through the glass screen door of his home in Kansas City, Missouri, when the Black teenager accidentally called at the wrong home to pick up his brothers.

Ralph’s recovery is still ongoing, with attorney Lee Merritt sharing a photo of him back at home following his release from hospital.

Meanwhile, Mr Lester appeared in court for the first time on Wednesday where he pleaded not guilty to two felonies.

The shooting has led to protests and an outpouring of support for Ralph from celebrities and donors to a GoFundMe campaign, as the incident casts a renewed spotlight on America’s “stand your ground” laws and whether they help to fuel random shootings and racism.


Andrew Lester is right-wing Fauci conspiracy theorist, says grandson

The grandson of 84-year-old Andrew Lester says they became estranged over his right-wing conspiracy theories about Dr Anthony Fauci and disparaging remarks he made about Black and gay people.

Klint Ludwig told The New York Times that his grandfather shared a conspiracy theory involving the infectious disease expert at a family gathering during the Covid pandemic.

“I was like, ‘Man, this sounds crazy,’” said 28-year-old Mr Ludwig. “I told him it was ridiculous.”

Mr Ludwig, who lives in a suburb of Kansas City, told the newspaper that his grandfather was capable of making remarks that he considered disparaging about Black people, gay people and immigrants.

Graeme Massie20 April 2023 00:30

Over in New York...

The boyfriend of Kaylin Gillis has spoken out about the final moments before she was shot and killed after they pulled into the wrong driveway.

The 20-year-old was killed in New York on Saturday when the couple entered the wrong driveway while searching for a party. The boyfriend, Blake Walsh, 19, told NBC News that his life has been destroyed.

The teenager from Cambridge, New York, told the network that he was driving the car with his girlfriend and two other passengers in the Ford Explorer searching for the party when two bullets flew in their direction, with one striking Ms Gillis.

She was fatally shot when they were exiting the driveway in Hebron, about 50 miles north of Albany.

Read the full story:

Boyfriend of Kaylin Gillis reveals final moments as she was fatally shot

‘I didn’t want to be with anybody else, and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her,’ Blake Walsh says

Graeme Massie20 April 2023 00:58

What we know about the shooting of Ralph Yarl

Black teenager went to pick up his younger brothers from a friend’s house, accidentally rang the doorbell at the wrong address and was shot twice by a white homeowner.

Now, protesters, celebrities and civil rights figures are demanding justice.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp reports on the case:

Ralph Yarl: What we know about the shooting of Black teen in Kansas City

A Black teenager went to pick up his younger brothers from a friend’s house, accidentally rang the doorbell at the wrong address and was shot twice by a white homeowner. Now, protesters, celebrities and civil rights figures are demanding justice. Rachel Sharp reports

Graeme Massie20 April 2023 02:02

Neighbour describes helping Ralph Yarl after shooting

The woman, who only wanted to be called Jodi, told KMBC, that she called 911 when the teenager knocked on her doing after being shot.

“I was supposed to pick up my little brothers from their friend’s house. And I went and knocked on the door and the man came to the door with a gun and shot me in the head,” Jodi said Ralph told her.

“He was very alert,” Jodi told the news station.

The woman, who says she is a medical professional, Jodi, got her son to grab towels to support Ralph’s head and put pressure on his wounds.

“Nobody should go through this. That was somebody’s child’s blood I cleaned off the front door,” Jodi said.

And she added: “He’s a very strong, brilliant child that has so much going for him and his future. And this is just sad.”

(Clay County Sheriff’s Office/AP/MerrittForTexas/Getty)
Graeme Massie20 April 2023 03:05

Experts slam ‘appalling’ length of time it took to arrest suspect

Gwen Grant, head of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, condemned the length of time it took to bring the suspect into custody.

“It is appalling and flat-out unacceptable that the shooter remains free. It is extremely difficult to understand why a statement from the victim is required to detain the assailant,” she said.

A KCPD spokesperson told The Kansas City Star that this was only a “cursory” interview, not a formal statement, which would need to be done “away from medical personnel”.

The decision to release Andrew Lester hours after the shooting was a key spark for protests throughout Kansas City over the weekend, and the fact that he was not immediately arrested on Monday 17 April when the charges were announced provoked further outrage.

“This shows that we are less important and that equal justice in the process is not a reality for us,” said Reverend Vernon P Howard, president of the Kansas City branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “The law enforcement agency responsible for the arrest is failing, which starts at the top.”

Graeme Massie20 April 2023 04:09

Homeowner who shot Black teen Ralph Yarl pleads not guilty

The 84-year old man who shot Ralph Yarl when the Black teenager went to his door by mistake pleaded not guilty Wednesday in a case that has shocked the country and renewed national debates about gun policies and race in America.

Andrew Lester walked into the courtroom with a cane and spoke quietly during Wednesday’s hearing, his first public appearance since last week’s shooting. Authorities say he shot Yarl, a 16-year-old honor student, first in the head, then in the arm after Yarl came to his door because he had confused the address with the home where he was supposed to pick up his younger brothers.

Andrew Lester appears in court to answer charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action on Wednesday, 19 April 2023 in Liberty
Andrew Lester appears in court to answer charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action on Wednesday, 19 April 2023 in Liberty (AP)

The case is among three in recent days involving young people who were shot after mistakenly showing up in the wrong places.

A 20-year-old woman was killed in upstate New York when the car she was in pulled into the wrong driveway. In Texas, two cheerleaders were shot after one of them mistakenly got into a car thinking it was hers.

Namita Singh20 April 2023 04:40

Why did it take so long to charge and arrest Andrew Lester?

We still don’t really know. Andrew Lester gave himself up to the police on Tuesday 18 April, and was released that evening on bail after paying a $200,000 bond.

In fact, Mr Lester had already been taken into custody on the night of the shooting five days earlier, after police reportedly found him standing inside his house behind the shattered glass storm door.

But according to arrest logs and media reports, he was held for less than two hours before being released by the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD).

That raised alarm bells for civil rights activists, given that police officers across the US have frequently justified fatal shootings of unarmed and often Black citizens by claiming, however questionably, that they believed they were at imminent risk of violence.

“We’re frustrated with law enforcement and their failure to take responsibility for the denial of this family’s due process. No one has owned up to it,” Mr Merritt said. “This 16-year-old unarmed boy didn’t actually pose a threat. But far too often in America, his skin alone is his weapon.”

Police and prosecutors have since claimed that they released Mr Lester that night because they could not hold him longer than 24 hours without charging him, and that they did not charge him because officers needed to get a victim statement from Ralph, who was still in hospital in critical condition.

Ralph’s lawyers have contested that, saying that he actually gave an interview to investigators from his hospital bed on Friday – within the 24-hour limit.

“There is no excuse for the release of this armed and dangerous suspect after admitting to shooting an unarmed, non-threatening, and defenceless teenager that rang his doorbell,” the lawyers said prior to Mr Lester surrendering himself.

“We demand swift action from Clay County prosecutors and law enforcement to identify, arrest, and prosecute to the full extent of the law the man responsible for this horrendous and unjustifiable shooting.”

Graeme Massie20 April 2023 05:04

Kansas City mayor says Ralph Yarl was shot ‘because he was existing while Black'

The mayor of Kansas City has said that he believes Ralph Yarl was shot by the white homeowner because of the colour of his skin.

“To pretend that race is not a part of this whole situation would be to have your head in the sand,” Mayor Quinton Lucas told CNN.

“This boy was shot because he was existing while Black.”

Prosecutor have said that their investigation has revealed “a racial component” to the shooting, but the exact nature of this has not been released.

Graeme Massie20 April 2023 06:03

Ralph Yarl’s aunt says he ‘lost a part of himself’ in shooting

The family of Ralph Yarl has said that the boy “lost a part of himself” when he was shot by a white homeowner for getting the wrong address.

Faith Spoonmore told CNN that – while he is recovering well – he has a long road to recovery ahead, both emotionally and physically.

“He lost a part of himself that day. A lot has changed since that happened,” she said.

“The way in which he’s gonna walk through this world, it’s gonna be totally different because of what happened.”

Graeme Massie20 April 2023 07:04

Ralph Yarl’s family questions claim Black 16-year-old could have scared the shooter

Ralph Yarl’s family has questioned the claim by gunman Andrew Lester that he found the Black 16-year-old intimidating.

Mr Lester claimed that he shot Ralph twice in the head and arm through a glass screen door because he was “scared to death” at the boy’s size and feared he was unable to defend himself given his elderly age.

He claimed he thought the boy was trying to break in and so shot twice through his exterior glass door, court documents state.

Family attorney Lee Merritt told CNN that Ralph – a 16-year-old child – stands at 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs 140 pounds.

“He’s the least imposing kid that I’ve come across,” he said. “He is a 16-year-old musician. He is not known for his physical prowess.”

Ralph’s aunt Faith Spoonmore also doubted the white homeowner’s claims.

“There is no way you can see fear when you look at that kid – if you really look at him, and not just the color of his skin. There is no way you can see fear,” she said.

Graeme Massie20 April 2023 07:50

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