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Ralph Yarl

Source: twitter / Twitter

The homeowner alleged to have shot Black Kansas City teenager Ralph Yarl has been officially identified and charged with assault by prosecutors.

On Monday (April 17), Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson announced that his office has filed charges against Andrew D. Lester, the white man alleged to have shot Yarl twice last Thursday night (April 13). Lester, 84, has been charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. The Kansas City Police Department released a mugshot of Lester later that evening.

“We understand how frustrating this has been, but I can assure you that the criminal justice system is working, and will continue to work,” Thompson said to reporters. He acknowledged there was a “racial component to the case” but did not elaborate. According to court documents, Lester claimed he heard his doorbell ring and grabbed his Smith & Wesson 1888 revolver before answering. He claimed that he saw a Black man attempting to pull the exterior storm door before he fired. The documents also state that Lester said “Don’t come around here” after the shooting. Yarl was hit twice – once in his forehead, and his right arm. The 16-year-old ran away and sought help at multiple homes before police arrived.

Thompson said that a warrant has been issued for Lester’s arrest, with bail to be set at $200,000. “I don’t have any information regarding his specific whereabouts,” he continued, “but it’s my understanding law enforcement is aware of the situation and taking all appropriate action.” Lester had been in police custody but was released after 24 hours in accordance with Missouri state law. The decision angered Yarl’s family and others who marched and protested in the Northland neighborhood where the shooting occurred.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas applauded the decision on Twitter, writing: “I am relieved to see this first step towards justice for Ralph Yarl with today’s felony charges. Now we must remain engaged through trial.”

Ben Crump and S. Lee Merritt, the civil rights attorneys who are representing the Yarl family, had been the primary source of details of the case up to this point. They expressed their support of the prosecutor’s decision in a statement, saying in part: “Gun violence against unarmed Black individuals must stop. Our children should feel safe, not as though they are being hunted. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, we will continue to fight for Ralph while he works towards a full recovery.”