KANSAS CITY, Mo. (TND) — Andrew Lester, 84, is accused of shooting 16-year-old Ralph Yarl after the Black teenager appeared at the front door of the older man's Kansas City, Missouri home.
It's a story that has gripped the nation, especially now that similar shootings have occurred, including one involving the killing of a 20-year-old woman in New York who was shot after pulling into a 65-year-old man's driveway. The cases have also reignited the ever-ongoing debate over gun control in the United States.
Now, a member of Lester's family, his grandson, is offering up information on the 84-year-old shooting suspect, telling CNN that his grandfather believed in "crazy" conservative conspiracy theories and often made "racist comments."
I believe he holds racist tendencies and beliefs," Klint Ludwig, 28, said of his grandfather, Lester. "A lot of it was like the QAnon-level conspiracies of election denying and he got really weird about some Fauci dogs... And I would push back on some of that stuff and he couldn’t handle being pushed back on and at a certain point we kind of lost touch and I think it was more his choice than mine."
Ludwig added that Lester often made disparaging comments about Black people, LGBT people and immigrants. Lester was also the owner of a large number of firearms, which he kept in his home, according to Ludwig.
When CNN's Don Lemon asked Ludwig why he thought his grandfather held racist beliefs, the 28-year-old said that Lester was "just a stock American Christian male" and "that’s just how they are."
Lemon then pushed back against Ludwig's statement, saying the grandson was "generalizing... older Christian white males," and then asked Ludwig to elaborate.
Ludwig answered by saying that, like a lot of his grandfather's "generation," Lester was most likely "scared," as the 84-year-old man would "sit and watch Fox News all day every day blaring in his living room."
I feel like a lot of people of that generation are caught up in this 24 hour news cycle of fear and paranoia perpetuated by some other news stations," Ludwig told Lemon.
I think that stuff really reinforces that negative view of minority groups and leads people – it doesn’t necessarily lead people to be racist, but it reinforces and galvanises racist people in their beliefs," Ludwig reportedly added.
Ludwig told CNN that he was speaking out about his grandfather because it was "the right thing to do." Ludwig added that he and his family were "disgusted" by his grandfather's alleged shooting of the Black teenager, and that they stand with Ralph Yarl in "seeking justice."
[In] this country, it happens over and over again where people get away with killing unarmed, innocent Black people people need to speak out and not make any excuses for this kind of behaviour and this violence," Ludwig told CNN.
Ludwig reiterated his belief that Ralph "deserves justice, regardless of my relationship with the shooter," in an interview with NBC News.
Lester pled not guilty to the shooting on Wednesday. The 84-year-old man is claiming self defense and that he was protecting his home, citing Missouri's "Stand Your Ground" law.
Yarl's family attorney, Lee Merritt, told the Associated Press that the "Stand Your Ground" law applies only if "someone's on your property and they're looking to do you harm."
According to reports, Yarl mistakenly arrived at Lester's front door after getting addresses mixed up. The young Black teenager was out attempting to pick up his twin brothers at "115th Terrace" but instead wound up at Lester's "115th Street" residence, Police Chief Stacey Graves said.
After Yarl reportedly rang the doorbell at Lester's home, the 84-year-old appeared with a handgun and shot the teenager twice. The AP reports Lester maintains that he saw Yarl make a move for the door handle and that he was frightened by the teenager's size.
Yarl reportedly said that when he began to flee the home after being shot, he heard Lester yell the words "don't come around here."
In an interview with The National Desk (TND), civil rights attorney Ben Crump reacted to both the shootings of Yarl and 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis, the woman killed in New York after turning around in the wrong driveway. Crump is representing Yarl in court.
Race does not change the need for justice in either of these cases," Crump told TND. "If you were outraged over the shooting of Ralph Yarl, you should be outraged at the shooting death of Kaylin Gillis."
I would hope that the media will be covering both of these cases equally. I would hope that everybody respects the value of their lives equally," Crump added. "That is what humanity requires. It doesn't matter if the color of your skin is Black or White."
Crump did add that he was not "surprised" to hear that Lester was pleading not guilty while arguing self defense.
We still feel very strongly that does not justify him shooting twice this young man just for ringing the doorbell," Crump told TND.