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Kansas City man charged for shooting Black teen who went to the wrong house

Kansas City man charged for shooting Black teen who went to the wrong house
Ralph Yarl, a Black 16-year-old who was shot and wounded by a homeowner after mistakenly going to the wrong house to pick up his siblings, holds a bass clarinet in this picture obtained from social media.
PHOTO: Reuters

A Kansas City man was charged with two felonies on Monday (April 17) in the shooting of a Black teenager who was wounded after walking up to the wrong house when going to pick up his younger twin brothers.

Andrew Lester, an 85-year-old white man, was charged with first degree assault and armed criminal action for shooting Ralph Yarl, 16, on the doorstep of his suburban home around 10pm last Thursday, the prosecutor said.

"I can tell you there was a racial component to the case," Clay County prosecutor Zachary Thompson told a news conference, without providing further details.

Two shots were fired from a revolver through a glass door, the prosecutor said. Yarl, who was struck in the head and an arm, did not cross the threshold, Thompson said, adding it did not appear any words were exchanged in the encounter.

Lester could face life in prison should he be found guilty of the assault charge and up to 15 years for criminal action, the prosecutor said. Hate crimes, which were not filed, carry lesser penalties in Missouri, he added.

Kansas City has seen two days of protests after the homeowner shot Yarl, who was released from the hospital and is recovering from the gunshot wounds, according to his family.

Demonstrators gathered on Monday at the suspect's single-story house on a tree-lined street, shouting "Black lives are under attack" and "Stand up, fight back," online videos showed.

"No child should ever live in fear of being shot for ringing the wrong doorbell," Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted in response to the shooting.

The family's lawyer Ben Crump on Monday had demanded the homeowner be arrested and charged with attempted murder of a teenager described by his school district as an "excellent student and talented musician."

The homeowner was initially taken into custody, placed on a 24-hour investigative hold, then released pending an interview with Yarl and the collection of forensic evidence, Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said.

A warrant was later issued for Lester's arrest with bond set at US$200,000 (S$270,000). He was not in custody as of 5pm, the prosecutor said.

Missouri has a "stand-your-ground law" that allows homeowners to use physical force to defend themselves against suspected intruders.

The law says a person cannot use deadly force unless they reasonably believe it is necessary to protect themselves or another person against death or serious physical injury, or a possible felony.

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