Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old boy from Missouri, was shot twice after ringing the wrong doorbell on Thursday night. He was going to pick up his younger brothers, but instead of receiving a hug from his siblings, he received a “couple of bullets” from Andrew Lester, an 84-year-old individual facing charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action. Mr. Lester claimed that he believed someone was attempting to break into his house and that he shot Mr. Ralph Yarl in self-defense.
According to a probable cause statement released by authorities, a witness who heard a car enter Mr. Lester’s driveway thought it was odd that their elderly neighbor would have a visitor around 10 pm. The witness heard two to three gunshots and then saw Mr. Ralph Yarl “screaming that he had been shot” and knocking on neighboring doors for help.
Mr. Ralph Yarl was shot in the head and in the arm at close range, and doctors treating him said they had no idea how he survived. His mother, Cleo Nagbe, told CBS that her son was home and surrounded by a team of medical professionals. She recounted the events of the night, saying that her son had gone to the wrong address and mistakenly knocked on Mr Lester’s door. Following the shooting, he sought assistance from three nearby homes before receiving help.
There has been a racial component to the shooting, according to a prosecutor, but Mr. Lester has not been charged with a hate crime, and charging documents do not describe the alleged racial bias. The shooting has sparked protests throughout Kansas City, and celebrities including Viola Davis, Justin Timberlake, Halle Berry, Kerry Washington, and Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes have condemned it.
Mr. Ralph Yarl and Mr. Lester gave slightly different accounts of the incident. Mr. Yarl’s statement to police said he pressed the doorbell at the home and waited, as it was his first time at the residence. According to Mr. Yarl’s statement to the police, he waited for a while after ringing the doorbell, and when the man inside opened the door, he was holding a gun. The man shot Mr. Yarl in the head, causing him to fall to the ground, and then shot him again in the right arm. Mr. Yarl said that the man told him not to come back.
Mr. Lester stated to the police that he was living alone and had already gone to bed when the doorbell rang. He opened the inside door and noticed Mr. Yarl pulling the exterior storm door handle. He assumed that someone was trying to break into his home and fired two shots within seconds. Mr. Lester claimed he was “scared to death” due to his age, and that no words were exchanged between him and Mr. Yarl.
Family attorney Lee Merritt said it was unjustifiable to use that level of force on a 16-year-old boy ringing a doorbell, even if Mr. Lester believed he was in danger. The family planned to speak with prosecutors to ask why attempted murder had not been included on the charge sheet.