Grandson of white man who shot Black teen who rang his doorbell says he 'wasn't shocked' by news

Klint Ludwig says grandad Andrew Lester has 'racist tendencies;' brother disputes notion race played role in Ralph Yarl shooting

ByHolly Yan, CNN, CNNWire
Friday, April 21, 2023
Family of teenager shot after going to wrong house demands justice
A 16-year-old Black teenager was shot on Thursday night by a homeowner in Kansas City, Missouri, after he accidentally went to the wrong address to pick up his siblings, and now his family is calling for justice.

When Klint Ludwig learned his grandfather, a white homeowner in Kansas City, had shot a Black teenager who rang his doorbell, Ludwig was repulsed --- but not entirely surprised.

"The warning signs were there. I wasn't shocked when I heard the news," Ludwig told CNN on Thursday. "I believe he held -- holds -- racist tendencies and beliefs."

But Ludwig's older brother, Daniel, reportedly disputed the notion that race played a role when their grandfather, 84-year-old Andrew Lester, shot 16-year-old Ralph Yarl in front of his door on April 13.

Lester, who was initially detained but then released hours after the shooting, has now been charged with two felonies.

SEE ALSO | Ralph Yarl's case spotlights racial 'adultification' of Black children

On Wednesday, Lester pleaded not guilty to the charges of assault in the first degree and armed criminal action. He is out on $200,000 bond and is due back in court June 1.

Ralph, 16, went to the wrong address to pick up his younger siblings -- 1100 NE 115th Street instead of 1100 NE 115th Terrace. After ringing Lester's doorbell, Ralph was shot in the head and arm.

Lester has told police he did not exchange words with the teen before he fired at him through a locked glass door, according to a probable cause document obtained by CNN.

The homeowner said he thought Ralph was trying to break into the home and he was "scared to death" due to the boy's size, according to the document.

Ralph's aunt told CNN her nephew is less than 6 feet tall and probably under 170 pounds.

Lester's attorney, Steven Salmon, has not responded to requests for comment. When CNN visited his Kansas City office on Thursday, his secretary said the attorney was not available to speak.

The incident was one of several recent cases involving young people shot or killed after mistakenly going to the wrong house, the wrong driveway or the wrong car.

Ralph has been released from a hospital, but the high school bass clarinetist faces a long road to recovery, his family said.

READ MORE | Can a doorbell ring justify a 'stand your ground' shooting? Law could play in Ralph Yarl case

Daniel Ludwig doesn't think his grandfather would have opened fire had Ralph not "gone for the door," the older sibling told The Kansas City Star.

Lester has told police he fired immediately after answering the doorbell when he saw Ralph pulling on an exterior door handle, according to the probable cause document obtained by CNN.

Ralph said he never pulled on the door. He rang the doorbell and waited a while before a man eventually opened the door and immediately shot him in the head, the document states.

While the teenager was still on the ground, the gunman then fired again, shooting him in the arm, Ralph told police.

While the Ludwig brothers have differing views about their grandfather, both say the shooting was unfortunate.

"It's just sad and I wish it didn't happen," Daniel Ludwig told The Star. "It seems like a bunch of mistakes in a row that resulted in a tragedy. I mean, a lot of mistakes all the way around, unfortunately."

Daniel Ludwig declined to comment when reached by CNN.

His younger brother said he supports the wounded teen and criticized his grandfather's actions.

"I was disgusted. I thought it was terrible. We -- myself and my family -- stand with Ralph Yarl in seeking justice," Klint Ludwig said. "This is a horrible tragedy that never should have happened."

When asked why he decided to speak out against his grandfather, he replied, "It's the right thing to do."

Too often in the US, the younger brother said, "people get away with killing unarmed, innocent Black people."

"People need to speak out," he said, "not make any excuses for this kind of behavior and this violence."

Klint Ludwig said he was disturbed by racial comments made by his grandfather in the past, including about Black people.

He said his grandfather believed in right-wing conspiracy theories and was influenced by the "fear and paranoia" stoked by some right-wing media, which was often "blaring in his living room."

"I think that stuff really kind of reinforces this negative view of minority groups," Klint Ludwig told CNN.

In an interview with The New York Times, Daniel Ludwig disputed claims their grandfather supported extreme right-wing views or conspiracy theories, but did not elaborate in detail.

"These people are not close to him like I am," Daniel Ludwig told the Times in a text message. He also said the grandfather was "literally too nice" and "spoiled" other relatives.

Klint Ludwig said he and Lester drifted apart during the Covid-19 pandemic after he challenged some of his grandfather's conspiracy theories, which he said ranged from election denial to conspiracies about infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.

"He couldn't handle being pushed back on, and at a certain point, we kind of lost touch," Klint Ludwig said. "I think it was more of his choice than mine."

The video in the player above is from a previous report.

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