BMissing teenager Ralph Yarl was shot dead by a white homeowner after he accidentally rang the wrong house bell when he went to pick up his brothers.
The 16-year-old’s accidental visit to Andrew Lester’s home in the Northland suburb of Kansas City quickly turned violent and the high school student was hospitalized with serious injuries.
Instead of going to a house on the 1100 block of Northeast 115th Terrace in Kansas City, Missouri, to pick up his brothers, he mistakenly went to Northeast 115th Street, police said.
Prosecutors have now filed charges against the homeowner, who turned himself in to authorities on Tuesday afternoon.
Here’s everything we know about the suspect.
The identity of the shooter was revealed Monday afternoon to be Andrew D. Lester, aged 84.
After the shooting, he was initially taken into custody on Thursday and held in custody for 24 hours.
However, under Missouri state law, a person can only be held on suspicion of a crime for 24 hours before officers are required to either charge them or release them.
Lawyers for Ralph – and prison officials – said the suspect was indeed released after less than two hours.
Kansas City Police Commissioner Stacey Graves said at a news conference Sunday that police had not received a formal statement from him due to Ralph’s injuries.
This was also contradicted by Ralph’s lawyers, who said the teenager gave an interview from his hospital bed on Friday.
In an appearance on CNN, Mr. Crump described the shooting as attempted murder.
On Monday afternoon, Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson announced that Mr. Lester was charged with two felonies: first-degree assault, which carries a penalty of 10 to 30 years or life in prison, and armed crime, which carries a penalty of 3 to 30 years 15 years.
When asked whether Mr Lester could also be charged with hate crimes, the prosecutor said state law did not allow it.
In Missouri, a hate crime is a lower-level crime, and adding the charge would constitute a double jeopardy, he said.
Mr Crump said in a statement: “While this is certainly a step in the right direction, we will continue to fight for Ralph as he works towards a full recovery.”
Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson confirmed in a press conference that “there was a racial component to the case,” but declined to provide details on what led him to that conclusion.
Prosecutors charged Andrew D. Lester with first-degree assault, which carries a sentence of 10 to 30 years or life in prison. He was also charged with armed criminal activity, which carries a sentence of 3 to 15 years.
Mr Thompson said bail was set at $200,000 but the suspect was not in custody at the time.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Mr Lester had surrendered at a detention center and the booking process was underway.
According to court documents, a police witness said they saw a vehicle pull into Mr Lester’s driveway at around 9.30pm.
Mr Lester told investigators he was lying down when the doorbell rang, he took a .32 pistol and opened the inside door of his home.
He told police he saw a black man pulling on the outside door and thought he was trying to break into the property.
He claimed he was “scared to death” by the boy’s size and fears he might not be able to fight back given his old age, the documents say.
Mr Lester said he fired twice and not a word was exchanged with the victim.
During an informal police interview at Children’s Mercy Hospital, the teenager said he didn’t open the door and waited outside.
He told investigators that a man opened the door and immediately shot him, causing him to fall to the ground, where he was shot a second time.
Ralph told police the man said, “Don’t come around here.”
After the shooting, Ralph managed to stumble to some other houses in the neighborhood for help and was hospitalized.
He was discharged from hospital on Monday to recover from his injuries at home.
“As the Clay County Prosecutor, I can tell you that there was a racial component to the case … I do not wish to comment on the specifics of the case to protect its integrity,” said Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson.
Ralph had not entered the house when Lester allegedly shot him through a glass door, Mr Thompson said.
Mr Crump told CNN that he believes things would have been different had the suspect and victim’s races been swapped.
“Nobody can tell us if the roles were reversed and you let a black guy shoot a white 16-year-old teenager just because he rang his doorbell that he wasn’t going to be arrested,” he said.
“I mean, this citizen went home and slept in his bed at night after he shot this young black man in the head.”
Celebrities join calls for justice as GoFundMe’s appeal soars
Before the charges were announced – and after the suspect was released from police custody without charge – several celebrities joined the calls for justice for Ralph.
Halle Berry posted Ralph’s picture to Twitter, urging her Twitter followers to contact the local district attorney to urge him to press charges against the homeowner.
“His name is #RalphYarl and I’m sick of that feeling… my heart broke completely to learn that this precious 16 year old accidentally rang the doorbell at the wrong address to pick up his siblings and was shot in the head by a man shot who didn’t want him on his property. This innocent child is now fighting for his life,” she wrote.
Black actress Viola Davis also took to Instagram to call for action.
“ALL HANDS ON DECK!!” she wrote, referring people to the posts of civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Lee Merritt.
Meanwhile, a call from GoFundMe to raise funds for his treatment poured in.
By noon ET on Monday — less than 24 hours after launch — a staggering $1.2 million had been raised.
On the campaign page, a woman posing as Ralph’s aunt described the teen as an “amazing kid” who dreamed of going to Texas A&M University to study chemical engineering.
“At school he is a member of the Technology Student Association and the Science Olympia team. Jazz and competition band. He is section leader in the brass band; a scholar and one of the finest clarinettists in Missouri. He recently received recognition from the Missouri All-State Band with an honorable mention. He plays several instruments in the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra. He is a 2022 Missouri Scholar Academy graduate. Ralph can often be found with a musical instrument. He loves them all,” the page reads.
“Last summer Ralph attended Missouri Scholar’s Academy where he gained extensive experience of college life. His goal is to go to Texas A&M to major in chemical engineering.
“When asked how he plans to get into that university, he said, ‘Well, if they have a scholarship in music or academics, I know I can get it.’ Ralph’s teachers and friends describe him as ‘one kind soul”, “calm”, “friendly”, “well mannered”, “always willing to help”, “super smart” and a “musical genius”. Ralph was looking forward to graduating high school and finally getting the opportunity to visit West Africa before starting college.
“Life looks very different at the moment. Although he is doing well physically, he has a long way to go mentally and emotionally. The trauma he must endure and survive is unimaginable. He is our miracle. We’ve heard these kinds of stories many times, and unfortunately most black boys don’t live to get another chance.