LIBERTY, Mo. — FOX4 is learning more about the 84-year-old man accused of shooting 16-year-old Ralph Yarl.
Andrew Lester pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault and armed criminal action charges at the Clay County Courthouse Wednesday.
The Kansas City Star was able to talk to two of Lester’s grandchildren.
Klint Ludwig, 28, told The Star he was horrified when he heard the news of the shooting. On the night of April 13, Yarl went to a home on 115th Street in Kansas City to try to pick up his siblings. He was supposed to go to a home on 115th Terrace.
Ludwig told The Star he and his grandfather have lost touch over the last five or six years, and the two view politics differently.
“He’s become staunchly right-wing, further down the right-wing rabbit hole as far as doing the election-denying conspiracy stuff and COVID conspiracies and disinformation, fully buying into the Fox News, OAN kind of line,” Ludwig said. “I feel like it’s really further radicalized him in a lot of ways.”
On Monday, Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson said there was a racial component to this case, but he wouldn’t elaborate any further.
Another one of Lester’s grandchildren, 30-year-old Daniel Ludwig, said he didn’t think race played a role in the shooting. Daniel is Klint’s older brother.
“If there’s evidence that this was targeting on the basis of race, then there are additional federal and probably state charges that can be brought,” Missouri U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley said in an interview with FOX4 Thursday.
Hawley said it shouldn’t matter what your skin color is, everyone should have a right to feel safe.
“You shouldn’t have to fear that because I live in this neighborhood or I’m in this part of the state, I’m not going to be safe. Everybody deserves the protection of the rule of law,” he said.
Thompson said first-degree assault is a higher-level crime than a hate crime. Thompson has said that first degree assault allows for a sentence of up to life in prison.
Lester’s next court appearance is set for June 1.