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Ralph Yarl's family, attorney discuss civil lawsuit filed against Andrew Lester, HOA

Cleo Nagbe, Ralph Yarl's mother
Posted at 10:03 PM, Apr 29, 2024

LIBERTY, Mo. — Ralph Yarl’s family announced in a press conference Monday afternoon they are filing a civil lawsuit against Andrew Lester and the Highland Acres Homes Association, Inc.

Lester maintained a not guilty plea in a docket call earlier this month in connection to the shooting of 17-year-old Ralph Yarl.

Yarl's mother discussed their next steps outside of the Clay County Courthouse, but at the end, sharing a brief update on her son's future put a smile on her face.

“We have two finalists," Cleo Nagbe said. "Two college finalists.”

Yarl's college decision will be made soon as he is set to graduate from Staley High School in May.

The shooting last April is a part of the soon-to-be 18 year old's life that he'd rather keep separate.

"I’ve tried to keep a sense of normalcy so I can continue being the person I am and who I used to be," Yarl said in an interview with NBC News.

His family’s decision to proceed with filing a civil lawsuit is how they're making sure 85-year-old Lester moves through the justice system.

“This incident not only shattered our family, but also exposed a critical gap in our societal fabric where the safety of our children is jeopardized by reckless actions," Nagbe said. "Through this civil suit, we aim to spark a dialogue on the importance of responsible gun ownership and community safety measures of using words, not weapons."

The family's attorney, Lee Merritt, is critical of how Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson is handling the case.

Merritt said they're hoping the filing adds some pressure.

"We wanted to go ahead considering we have an elderly assailant using every opportunity to delay the legal process," Merritt said. "We want to go after that property, we want to go after all his resources. We don’t want to leave him with the resources or comfort on Earth until there’s accountability."

Merritt said Lester's attorneys have filed documents stating he may not be competent enough to stand trial.

They included the Highland Acres Homes Association in the lawsuit because they said there is evidence the HOA was negligent.

"When Ralph was shot, he ran into the community," Merritt said. "The community went into a lock down system. I wanna know what led to that lock down. Was it related to the HOA policies and practices that led to the delay of Ralph getting the care he needed?"

Merritt said they have proof the HOA was aware Lester had violent and racial tendencies that posed a danger to the public.

It's been over one year since Yarl was shot and his mother said they are still "getting there" with his recovery.

"We refuse to let Ralph's suffering be in vain," Nagbe said. "His ordeal must be a wake up call for our nation to prioritize child safety and act meaningful reform to protect our youth from gun violence.”

Lester's trial is currently set for Oct. 7. The Highland Acres Homes Association did not respond to KSHB 41's request for comment.