The 84-year-old White man accused of shooting a Black teenager who rang his doorbell in Kansas City turned himself in Tuesday and was later released on bail, authorities said.
Andrew Lester, who faces two felony charges – assault in the first degree and armed criminal action – in the April 13 shooting of Ralph Yarl, will be arraigned Wednesday afternoon, according to Yarl family attorney Lee Merritt. CNN has reached out to prosecutors to confirm the information.
Lester turned himself in at a detention center Tuesday then hours later was released on bail. The conditions of his $200,000 bond prohibit him from having any type of weapon and cannot have direct or indirect contact with Yarl or his family, according to Clay County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sarah Boyd.
Ralph, 16, was shot in the head and arm after he went to the wrong address to pick up his siblings. He has been released from a hospital but faces an arduous road to recovery, his family said.
Lester has told police he and the teen did not exchange words before he fired at him through a locked glass door.
CNN has not been able to reach the homeowner. CNN has yet to determine whether Lester has an attorney.
The criminal charges have brought a bit of comfort to Ralph’s family – but long roads lie ahead, both with Ralph’s recovery and the quest for justice, his aunt Faith Spoonmore told CNN.
“It’s not as simple as turning a page,” Spoonmore said Tuesday. “It’s a little better that he is – hopefully – going to get part of what of he deserves.”
But questions remain over why Lester was initially detained but released a few hours after the April 13 shooting.
“I share the outrage and concern of many in asking why,” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas told CNN.
“In Missouri, you can have a 24-hour hold. It is clear here that this was two or three hours, where they questioned the suspect. He was able to go back home that evening.”
Lester told police he fired immediately after answering the doorbell when he saw Ralph pulling on an exterior door handle, according to the probable cause document obtained by CNN.
Lester thought Ralph was trying to break in to the home and was “scared to death” due to the boy’s size, according to the document.
Officers responded just before 10 p.m. that night after receiving reports of a shooting. When they arrived, they found Ralph wounded in the street.
The shooting left Ralph, who plays bass clarinet and is a band leader in school, with gunshot wounds to his head and arm. While he was hospitalized, Ralph told police he did not pull on the door, according to the document.
It was “nothing short of a miracle” that Ralph was discharged from the hospital, his attorney Ben Crump told CNN on Monday. But “he’s not out of the woods yet.”
Demonstrators have marched through Kansas City chanting, “Justice for Ralph,” and calling for the shooter’s arrest.
The shooting also came days before a 20-year-old woman was shot and killed in upstate New York after she and three others accidentally turned into the wrong driveway.
While Ralph’s attorneys say the teen never posed a threat to his shooter, it remains unclear whether Missouri’s “stand your ground” law will be cited in Lester’s defense case.
“Stand your ground” laws allow people to respond to threats or force without fear of criminal prosecution in any place where a person has the right to be.
Ralph’s aunt challenged the notion that her nephew’s “size” could be a threat.
“I really don’t understand how,” Spoonmore said. “I doubt Ralph is even 170 pounds. Ralph is not even 6 feet (tall).”
She said she’s on a mission to help get justice for her nephew.
“I want justice to look the same across the board,” Spoonmore said. “I want justice to look the same.”
‘A racial component to this case’
The mayor said he believes Ralph was racially profiled by the shooter.
“This boy was shot because he was existing while Black,” Lucas said.
Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson has said, “There was a racial component to this case,” but did not elaborate.
On the night of the shooting, Lester was taken into custody and was released less than two hours later, two representatives at the Kansas City Police Department detention unit previously told CNN.
Lester was released because police recognized that more investigative work needed to be done, Thompson said.
Attorney Crump questioned why Lester was not detained longer.
“Nobody can tell us if the roles were reversed, and you had a Black man shoot a White 16-year-old teenager for merely ringing his doorbell that he would not be arrested. I mean, this citizen went home and slept in his bed at night after shooting that young Black kid in the head,” Crump told CNN.
“He merely rang the doorbell. That was it,” the teen’s attorney said. “And the owner of the home shoots through the door, hitting him in the head and then shoots him a second time.”
The mayor said he didn’t even know the details of the case until several days after the shooting. And while he believes race played a role in the shooting, he acknowledged the work by police – including White officers – who helped prosecutors file charges against Lester.
“We did have officers, White officers for what it’s worth, who did a lot of hard work to get this case file to the prosecutor having charges filed shortly thereafter,” Lucas said.
“That being said, to pretend that race is not a part of this whole situation would be to have your head in the sand.”
How the shooting unfolded
Before the shooting, Lester was lying down in bed when he heard the doorbell ring and picked up his .32 caliber revolver, he told police, according to a probable cause statement.
He then went to his home’s front entrance, which includes an interior door and a glass exterior door – both of which were locked.