Skip to main content

Homeowner charged with shooting 16-year-old boy who mistakenly showed up to home

Ralph Yarl mistakenly went to Andrew D. Lester's home, his family said. Lester is charged with shooting the teenager in the head and arm. (Image of Yarl: GoFundMe; mugshot of Lester: Kansas City Police Department via AP)

Ralph Yarl mistakenly went to Andrew D. Lester’s home, his family said. Lester is charged with shooting the teenager in the head and arm. (Image of Yarl: GoFundMe; mugshot of Lester: Kansas City Police Department via AP)

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 a count each of assault in the first degree and armed criminal action. Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson said in a press conference Monday that the first charge presents a possible punishment of life in prison. (The prosecutor gave Lester’s age as 85 but documents and online records indicate he’s 84.)

Authorities said Lester is the man who shot Ralph Yarl, 16, twice. The victim’s aunt previously said that the teenager, who did not have his phone, went to Lester’s home by mistake on Thursday night. He had meant to go to a friend’s nearby home to pick up his twin younger 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 that further investigative processes — including trying to take a statement from Yarl and processing forensic evidence — were necessary. Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said Sunday that the homeowner was put on a 24-hour hold for a felony investigation but had to be released under state law if there were not any charges.

Lee Merritt, an attorney for Yarl’s family, said Lester was held for under two hours and police took a statement from Yarl on Friday.

Thompson on Monday declined to discuss the shooting at length because he did not want to “litigate” the case in the press, but noted the probable cause statement did not indicate that any words were exchanged. Lester allegedly fired the rounds through a glass door. Yarl did not cross the threshold of the residence, he said. He declined to comment on whether the teen knocked on the door or rang the bell, saying this detail may be in dispute.

Lester, who lives by himself, told police he had just laid down 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 outside door. Lester said he believed someone was attempting to break in, according to documents.

He allegedly fired two shots. The teen ran away. Lester called 911. According to documents, Lester said they did not exchange words. The teenager did not say anything.

Lester allegedly said, “it was the last thing he wanted to do, but was ‘scared to death’ due to the male’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 trying to pick up his brothers. He rang the doorbell and waited. The man inside opened the door and was holding 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, was shot in the arm.

“Don’t come around here,” Lester allegedly said.

When a reporter asked him about a possible hate crime charge, Thompson said that would be a lesser charge, and when pressed, he added “at that point, you would be talking about double jeopardy issues.”

Yarl is Black. Thompson said Lester is white.

“As the prosecutor of Clay County, I can tell you there was a racial component to the case,” he said.

There was an arrest warrant and the bond was set at $200,000, Thompson said, but noted that law enforcement had not arrested Lester yet. Police announced Tuesday afternoon that Lester was in custody.

Note: We added information that Lester was in custody.

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime: