A white 84-year-old homeowner in the US state of Missouri has been charged with shooting a black teenager, Ralph Yarl, who rang the wrong doorbell while picking up his siblings. Andrew Lester has been charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action, says Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson on Monday evening. Mr. Lester, allegedly shot Yarl, 16, once in the head and once in the arm last Thursday night. The boy survived. “I can tell you there was a racial component to this case,” Thompson said at a press conference on Monday. 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. There is no video of the encounter, Thompson added.
When asked whether hate crime charges could be added, the prosecutor said that in Missouri, a hate crime is a lower level of felony and 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.
“My message to the community is that, in Clay County, we enforce the laws and we follow the laws.
“That doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like or how much money you have,” Thompson further stated.
Authorities initially detained Mr. Lester for questioning and later let him go, sparking protests across the city on Sunday.
Protesters on Monday, congregated outside the suspect's home chanting "black lives are under attack" and "stand up, fight back", online video shows. Mr. Lester's home has also reportedly been vandalised.
Ralph's family said he had been trying to pick up his younger twin brothers from a friend's house at around 22:00 local time on 13 April when he knocked on Mr. Lester's door.
The family explained that the teen mistakenly went to 115th Street instead of 115th Terrace and rang the bell twice. After being shot, he went to three nearby homes before someone helped him, they said.
On Monday, prosecutors said Missouri citizens have the right to use force if they "reasonably" fear that they are in danger. They declined to elaborate further on the specifics of this case.
Ralph was released from hospital on Sunday and was at home recovering from his injuries, family members said.
The victim’s father, Paul Yarl, told the Kansas City Star the charges were "such a relief".
"I'm happy. This is what we've been looking for. It's here."