Good Samaritan Who Helped Teen: 'I Thought He Was Dead'

More on the case of Ralph Yarl, Kansas City 16-year-old shot when he went to the wrong home
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2023 7:46 AM CDT
Good Samaritan Who Helped Teen: 'I Thought He Was Dead'
This undated photo shows Ralph Yarl, the teenager cops say was shot by a homeowner in Kansas City, Missouri.   (Ben Crump Law via AP)

Charges have been filed in the case of Ralph Yarl, the Black teen shot Thursday night in Kansas City, Missouri, when police say he showed up at the wrong house to pick up his younger siblings. Andrew Lester, the 84-year-old white homeowner accused of shooting the 16-year-old and charged with first-degree felony assault and armed criminal action, wasn't in custody as of Monday night, but Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson says an arrest warrant has been issued and Lester's bail has been set at $200,000, per the New York Times. "I don't have any information regarding his specific whereabouts, but it's my understanding law enforcement is aware of the situation and taking all appropriate action," Thompson said Monday upon announcing the charges. More on the developing case:

  • Further details: It's not clear if Ralph knocked on Lester's door or rang the doorbell, but Thompson stressed at Monday's presser that the teen did not "cross the threshold" of the home. He added that the bullets fired at Ralph from a .32-caliber handgun went through a glass door, and that it doesn't seem that "any words were exchanged" before the shooting.
  • Lester's take: In a probable cause statement seen by CNN, Lester says he was "scared to death" of Ralph due to his size, and that he shot the teen immediately when he says he saw Ralph pulling on an exterior door handle. Ralph has told police he didn't pull on the door handle. Lester was originally taken into custody the night of the shooting but released not even two hours later, Kansas City Police Department reps say, citing the need for further investigation before charges could be brought.
  • Good Samaritan: James Lynch is the man who found Ralph bloody and unconscious in a neighbor's driveway and held his hand until help arrived. "I heard somebody screaming, 'Help, help, I've been shot!'" the 42-year-old father of three tells NBC News. "I thought he was dead," he continued. "He hasn't even begun to live his life yet. He didn't deserve to get shot."

  • 'Stand your ground' law: Missouri's self-defense gun law—which "allows individuals to use force in self-defense without retreating in any location where they have the right to be," per the Kansas City Star—is now in the spotlight, though it's not yet clear if Lester will use this law to bolster his defense. Such laws "give people a license to kill," Dillard, whose teen son and brother were both killed by gun violence, tells the paper. "You can't just shoot people who come to your door," adds criminal defense attorney Kevin Jamison. State Rep. Ben Baker, who's sponsoring an even tougher "stand your ground" law in Missouri, calls the shooting a "terrible situation" that "seems as though someone reacted prematurely," but he stands by his bill as necessary for "law-abiding citizens."
  • Big names weigh in: Ralph's shooting has drawn attention from around the nation, including from singer Justin Timberlake, actor Halle Berry, and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who said Monday that what happened to the teen "never should have happened," per KSHB. Ralph and his family also spoke Monday afternoon with President Biden, who "offered his prayers for Ralph's health and for justice," according to family attorneys Ben Crump and Lee Merritt, per KSHB and NBC News.
  • From the family's legal team: "Gun violence against unarmed Black individuals must stop," well-known civil rights lawyers Crump and Merritt say in a statement, per KSHB. "Our children should feel safe, not as though they are being hunted."
  • Ralph's status: The 16-year-old, who was shot once in the head and once in the arm, has been discharged from the hospital and is now recovering at home in stable condition, Merritt tells NBC. The news outlet has more on Ralph, an academically gifted student and "talented musician," with plans to study chemical engineering in college and take a trip to West Africa. A GoFundMe set up by Ralph's aunt to pay for medical expenses, therapy, and college costs had raised more than $2.7 million by Tuesday morning.
(More Ralph Yarl stories.)

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