‘Excuses… Are Not True’: Attorneys Say Kansas City Cops Initially Held Ralph Yarl’s Shooter for Only 2 Hours, Already Had Statement They Need for Criminal Case Days Before 

A Kansas City, Missouri, man detained briefly after shooting a teenage boy for ringing his doorbell has been released on a $200,000 bond, but attorneys acting on the boy’s behalf said police did not initially hold the suspect as officials claimed.

Though he is out of jail, he still faces assault charges that could possibly put him back in lockup for the rest of his life.

Ralph Yarl Shot by Andrew Lester
Andrew Lester, right, admitted to shooting Ralph Yarl, left. (Photos: GoFundMe/Twitter)

Andrew Lester, 85, was charged with first-degree assault for shooting 16-year-old Ralph Yarl after the teenager mistakenly approached the doorstep of his home and rang his front doorbell on Thursday, April 13.

It was late in the evening, and Ralph believed he was picking up his 11-year-old twin brothers from their friend’s home.

The friend had a similar address to Lester’s, according to reports. He rang the doorbell at the 1100 block of Northeast 115th Street instead of the 1100 block of Northeast 115th Terrace, one block away.

Prosecutors Zachary Thompson said the teenager was shot twice by Lester, who fired his .32-caliber revolver through a glass door. Ralph was shot once in his head and also in his arm, despite not crossing the octogenarian’s threshold.

One of Lester’s neighbors, James Lynch, said he heard someone shouting around 10 p.m. He looked out his window to see what was causing the commotion in his otherwise quiet community. It was then he saw the Black teenager covered in blood and banging on another neighbor’s door asking for help.

“I heard somebody screaming, ‘Help, help, I’ve been shot!'” Lynch said to NBC News.

By the time he got to the teenager, he saw how badly he was injured. He seemed to have been shot in his head near his eye socket.

“I thought he was dead,” Lynch explained.

But after realizing he was not, he relied on skills he learned as an Eagle Scout.

Lynch let the boy know he was going to grab his hand and hold it “really tight.”

He then checked to see if the boy still had a pulse before asking pertinent questions about his identity such as his name, age and school. Though he struggled to spell his name, he was able to communicate who he was.

By that time, a female neighbor reportedly came to the child’s aid and used towels to stop the teen’s bleeding.

Both Lynch and the woman waited for the paramedics to arrive and transport him to a hospital where his injuries could be tended to by doctors.

Court documents state when Ralph was asked by officials in the hospital if Lester said anything to him before the shooting, the boy remembered hearing “Don’t come around here.”

The teen was released from the hospital on Monday, April 17, to the care of his family and is currently recuperating in his home. He was pictured on social media in a photo sitting on a bench with one of his attorneys, Lee Merritt, in an Instagram post on Wednesday, April 19.

Ralph is expected to make a full recovery, according to his family.

“Had the bullet hit his head a fraction of an inch in any other direction he would probably be dead right now,” reads the caption on the photo.

Kansas City police chief Stacey Graves told reporters in a press conference on Monday that Lester was placed on a 24-hour investigative hold the night of the shooting, and detectives needed to collect more forensic evidence for the case and secure a witness statement before moving forward with the criminal case.

Authorities in Missouri reportedly can only hold a suspect for up to 24 hours before charging them with a felony. Thompson confirmed in a statement on Monday morning that he had not received a criminal referral from the Kansas City Police Department.

Merritt said Monday night that Lester was only held for two hours and was released after he provided a statement to police. Ralph also gave police a recorded statement from his hospital bed Friday, the attorney said.

“I cannot say for certain why the appropriate arrest hasn’t been made by law enforcement,” Merritt wrote on Instagram. “I can say with absolute certainty the excuses being offered are not true.”

Thompson announced charges against Lester on Monday evening. He surrendered to the Clay County Sheriff’s Detention Center on Tuesday.

Lester was charged with first-degree assault, which could yield a life sentence, and armed criminal action, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

At a press conference, Thompson said, “I can tell you there was a racial component to the case.” However, he did not share how his office came to that conclusion and did not announce any hate crime charges against the elderly man.

Lester reportedly told police he thought someone was trying to break in, and he was “scared to death” because of “the male’s size.”

“He believed he was protecting himself from a physical confrontation and could not take the chance of the male coming in,” according to a probable cause statement.

The prosecutor also said hate crimes hold lesser weight than the two charges Lester is currently facing.

“In the state of Missouri, hate crimes can be E or D felonies, which carry with them a lower range of punishment than what the defendant is charged with,” said Thompson according to KWCH.

The victim’s attorneys said his family is relieved about the criminal charges, which came a day after protesters rallied outside the shooter’s home and demanded justice. News of the shooting also flooded social media on Sunday night, with several celebrities urging their followers to call the prosecuting attorney’s office.

The teen’s aunt Dr. Faith Spoonmore describes the big brother as a “fantastic kid,” sharing that he is a member of the Technology Student Association and Science Olympia Team and that he also loves music. He is the section leader of his school’s marching band and one of the top bass clarinet players in Missouri, she said.

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