Kansas City Teen Shot

Dried egg is seen on the front of a house on Monday where 16-year-old Ralph Yarl was shot Thursday after he went to the wrong address to pick up his younger brothers in Kansas City, Mo. Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The 84-year-old Kansas City man who shot 16-year-old Ralph Yarl admitted to Kansas City detectives that he opened fire “within a few seconds” of seeing the Black teen on his Northland doorstep, according to charging documents filed in Clay County on Monday.

The man, Andrew D. Lester, who is white, allegedly told police he feared for his safety when he answered the door and saw Yarl there. The teenager, an honor student at Staley High School, accidentally went to the wrong house while trying to pick up his younger brothers and was shot in the head after ringing the doorbell.

The case quickly caught national attention as celebrities and politicians – from Grammy award winner Jennifer Hudson to President Joe Biden – have weighed in on the shooting. Many have raised concerns about the shooting being racially motivated, and voiced outrage over gun violence and inequality in the criminal system.

Many also called for charges to be brought after Lester was released from police custody after 24 hours. According to charging documents, Clay County prosecutors believed the shooting warranted further investigation on Thursday, prompting Lester’s release from custody.

On Monday, Lester was charged with counts of first-degree assault and armed criminal action. He faces up to 30 years in prison on the assault charge alone.

According to charging documents, the first call for a reported shooting came in to Kansas City police at roughly 9:52 p.m.


Responding officers found Ralph Yarl in the street roughly five houses down from where the shooting had unfolded in the 1100 block of N.E. 115th Street. He was in serious but stable condition when paramedics arrived.

One witness, a neighbor, told police of the sound of gunfire coming from Lester’s home shortly before Yarl could be heard screaming for help. The officers responded there to see Lester standing inside the house behind a shattered glass storm door.

He was ordered to exit and taken into police custody.

Apparent blood was on the front porch, in the driveway and in the street. Swabs were taken for DNA analysis, and authorities dusted for fingerprints. Surveillance cameras were noticed outside of the residence.

Inside, in the living room, police recovered a Smith & Wesson revolver with two spent shell casings still in the cylinder. Live rounds occupied the remaining chambers.

Crime scene investigators collected evidence including photographs of the inside and outside of the home.


There was also a security system with a receiver in the northeast bedroom. A hard drive was seized to preserve any video of the shooting, though police ultimately determined the surveillance system was “no longer functional” and its last recorded entry was in June.

On April 14, the day after Yarl was shot, a Kansas City detective went back to conduct an informal interview after he was well enough to speak.

Kansas City Teen Shot

Ralph Yarl, the teenager shot by a homeowner in Kansas City, Mo. Ben Crump Law via AP

The teenager said he was asked by his mother to pick up his younger brothers from the neighborhood. But there was a mixup on the address, he said, that led him to 1100 N.E. 115th Street instead of 1100 N.E. Terrace.

After pulling into the driveway, Yarl told detectives he walked to the front door and rang the bell. He waited a while and then saw a white man answer with a firearm in hand.

He recalled being shot “immediately” after the door opened and falling to the ground. Then a second gunshot was fired, striking him in the arm, he said.

After being shot, Yarl heard the man say: “Don’t come around here.” Then he got up and ran “to keep from being shot” again, according to court documents.


He tried to get help from “multiple residences” and asked for someone to call 911, he told the detective.

He also told police he had not pulled on the door and had never visited the residence that he was trying to find.

During a recorded interview at Kansas City police headquarters on the night of the shooting, Lester allegedly said he had just gone to bed when he heard the doorbell ring. He said he grabbed his gun before heading to the door.

The main front door and glass storm door were both locked, he said. After opening the door he said he saw a tall Black male pulling the handle and quickly concluded he was “attempting to break into the house.”

Lester said he fired two rounds “within a few seconds of opening the door,” according to court documents. He allegedly told police “it was the last thing he wanted to do, but he was ‘scared to death,’” according to court documents.

Kansas City Teen Shot

Protesters march Sunday in Kansas City, Mo., to bring attention to the shooting of Ralph Yarl, 16, who was shot when he went to the wrong Kansas City house to pick up his younger brothers. Susan Pfannmuller/The Kansas City Star via Associated Press

“He believed he was protecting himself from a physical confrontation and could not take the chance of the male coming in,” a detective wrote summarizing Lester’s statement to police, adding Lester appeared “visibly upset and repeatedly expressed concern for the victim.”


Yarl’s shooting prompted a protest Sunday as well as national attention from celebrities including Jennifer Hudson, Halle Berry and Justin Timberlake. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said he hopes “the justice system does right by him.”

North Kansas City students planned to walk out of class Tuesday morning and participate in a unity walk, with a performance from Yarl’s school band. In a statement, Superintendent Dan Clemens said Yarl is “is an excellent student and talented musician. He maintains a stellar GPA while taking mostly college level courses.”

Politicians, including Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, also spoke up. President Joe Biden also said he had spoken with Yarl’s family and offered prayers.

In condemning the shooting, Cleaver said Monday he could think of “no justification for shooting a child multiple times for ringing the wrong doorbell.” Local activists also pointed to the case as one where the community must continue to pay attention to violence and racism.

“We must take a critical look at the root causes of violence in our communities and address the deep-seated issues of racial inequality that fuel it,” said Amia Cook, an organizer with Decarcerate KC, a group focused on injustices in the criminal justice system.

Gwen Grant, president of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, said she was pleased to see charges filed but wanted to see more brought.


“Clearly, race was a factor in this shooting. Therefore, it is my hope that federal hate crime charges will also be filed against Andrew Lester. He has not shot any white people who rang his doorbell.”

Vernon Howard Jr., president of the Greater Kansas City Southern Christian Leadership, said there needs to be a paradigm shift in understanding what justice is.

“We will receive justice as a people when Ralph Yarl and other young, unarmed, innocent, talented, gifted beautiful Black men and women do not have to suffer the risk of their lives being lost because of the color of their skin or because they ring the doorbell at the wrong house,” Howard said.

In the wake of his shooting, Yarl’s family has retained renowned civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Lee Merritt to represent them. Of the charges, lawyers said charges were a step in the right direction – but were only the beginning.

“We are relieved that charges are finally moving forward but are disappointed in the delay that necessitated national outcry for an obvious crime,” Merritt said. “We are cautiously optimistic about accountability and justice.”


(The Star’s Sarah Ritter, Anna Spoerre, Luke Nozicka and Katie Moore contributed to this report.)

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