Ralph Yarl; Kansas City Teen Shot by Neighbor

Aiden Lim

A white 84-year-old homeowner who allegedly shot and wounded Ralph Yarl, a black teen, after the 16-year-old went to the wrong home to pick up his siblings will face two felony charges, Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson announced early Monday evening.

Andrew Lester will face charges of assault in the first degree and armed criminal action. Authorities have issued a warrant for his arrest and he’s not currently in custody, Thompson said.

“I can tell you there was a racial component to this case,” Thompson said at a news conference without elaborating.

When asked whether Lester may also face hate crime charges, the prosecutor said that in Missouri, a hate crime is a lower level of felony, and that adding such charges could constitute double jeopardy. A probable cause document released Monday evening similarly doesn’t shine any light on why authorities believe race played a role in this case.

There is no indication that Lester or Ralph spoke to one another before the Thursday evening shooting, Thompson said. The prosecutor added there is no evidence that the teen entered the home and preliminary evidence shows Lester opened fire on the teen through a glass door with a .32 caliber revolver.

Family attorney Ben Crump said in a statement, “while this is certainly a step in the right direction, we will continue to fight for Ralph while he works towards a full recovery.”

Two representatives at the Kansas City Police Department detention unit previously told CNN the suspect was taken into custody on April 13 just before midnight but was released less than two hours later, at 1:24 a.m. on April 14.

Thompson said Lester was only held for several hours after he was initially detained because police recognized right away that more investigative work needed to be done. Thompson originally said Lester was 85 years old but a probable cause document obtained by CNN shows he is 84.

According to a probable cause statement, Lester told investigators he was “scared to death” by Yarl’s size and his inability to defend himself at age 84. He told investigators he was in bed when he heard his doorbell ring and grabbed a handgun before answering the door.

“He stated he believed someone was attempting to break into the house, and shot twice (through an exterior storm door) within a few seconds of opening the (main) door,” a police detective writes in the court document.

After the shooting, Lester repeatedly expressed concern for Ralph, according to the statement.

Officers responded April 13, just before 10 p.m., after receiving reports of a shooting. When they arrived, they found Ralph, 16, who had been shot outside a residence by a homeowner. Police and Ralph’s family have said he went to the wrong address, mistaking 115th Terrace for 115th Street.

“Ralph stated the male inside took a long time but finally opened the door holding a firearm. He stated he was immediately shot in the head and fell to the ground,” the detective writes.

Ralph was shot twice, with bullets striking him in the left forehead and right arm, according to the probable cause statement.