The grandson of the man who shot Ralph Yarl — a Black teen in Kansas City, Missouri, who rang the doorbell of the wrong house while trying to pick up his younger siblings — believes that his grandfather may have been influenced by Fox News and other right-wing media.
Yarl was asked by his parents to pick up his younger brothers in a Kansas City neighborhood, but ended up at the wrong address, ringing the doorbell of Andrew Lester instead. Lester, who is white, responded by shooting Yarl in the head. After Yarl fell to the ground, Lester shot him again in the arm.
Yarl survived the shooting and is currently recovering at his home.
Police detained Lester after the shooting but released him hours later. Residents of the neighborhood where Yarl is from protested on the street where he was shot earlier this week, with more than 1,000 people demanding that Lester be arrested and formally charged.
Police arrested Lester later on, charging him with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. He has pleaded not guilty, and will likely try to defend himself by citing Missouri’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows people to use lethal force if they claim they are defending themselves or their property. Racial justice advocates have pointed out that such laws essentially allow white people to kill Black and Brown people with impunity.
Klint Ludwig, Lester’s grandson, told CNN’s Don Lemon on Thursday that his grandfather’s actions were likely influenced by his right-wing views and regular consumption of conservative media, citing the “24-hour news cycle of fear and paranoia perpetuated by some other news stations.”
“I think that stuff really kind of reinforces this negative view of minority groups and… it doesn’t necessarily lead people to be racist, but it reinforces and galvanizes racist people and their beliefs,” Ludwig said.
When asked about Lester’s views, Ludwig noted that his grandfather had “racist tendencies,” and said “weird, racist” things around him. Ludwig also said that Lester bought into unfounded conspiracy theories, denying the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and believing misinformation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would push back on some of this stuff and he couldn’t handle being pushed back on,” Ludwig said. “At a certain point, we kind of lost touch and I think that it was more his choice than mine.”
Ludwig also discussed the shooting with The Kansas City Star, stating that Lester is “staunchly right-wing,” and fully buys into “the Fox News, OAN kind of line” of thinking.
“I feel like it’s really further radicalized him in a lot of ways,” Ludwig told the publication, adding that his grandfather is a fan of the National Rifle Association and buys into the “Stand Your Ground” rhetoric that the organization has peddled for years.
Ludwig emphasized his support for Yarl, saying that he wants the teenager and his family to “achieve justice for what happened to them.” He also condemned the Kansas City Police Department for its handling of the case, crediting protesters in the neighborhood with the eventual arrest of his grandfather.
“The only reason why he is now receiving charges and an investigation is being held was because of community outreach to bring attention to this,” Ludwig said.
“Ralph Yarl did nothing wrong by showing up at the wrong house, which is an honest, easy mistake,” he added. “And the fact that it was almost a death sentence is disgusting.”
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