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Shooting survivor Ralph Yarl garners worldwide support, including from suspect's family

Klint Ludwig
Posted at 2:25 PM, Apr 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-20 18:48:43-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Support for Ralph Yarl, the 16-year-old who was shot in the head on April 13 in Kansas City, Missouri, has poured in from across the country and around the globe.

Within three days, over 80,000 worldwide donors contributed to the GoFundMe in Yarl’s name, with donations coming from 80 countries and all 50 U.S. states, according to a GoFundMe spokesperson. As of April 20, the GoFundMe, created to fund Yarl’s recovery, future education and family, has raised over $3.37 million.

Yarl’s worldwide support also comes from those least unexpected, the family of the shooter, Andrew Lester, 84.

“The outpouring of support that the country has shown to (Yarl), I think, says more than I ever could say,” said Klint Ludwig, a grandson of Lester, in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon on Thursday morning.

Ludwig said he was “disgusted” by the shooting and that he and his family stand with Yarl in seeking justice.

Yarl, who is Black, was shot twice, once in the head and a second time in the arm, by Lester, who is white, after mistakenly going to the wrong house while trying to pick up his younger brothers shortly before 10 p.m. on April 13.

"As the prosecutor of Clay County, I can tell you there was a racial component to this case,” said Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson at a press conference on Monday after announcing the two felony charges against Lester.

Lester is charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action.

According to the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department's probable cause statement, Lester said he feared for his life when the shooting occurred.

Ludwig believes his grandfather holds “racist tendencies and beliefs.”

“The warning signs were there,” Ludwig said in the interview. “I wasn’t shocked when I heard the news, I believed it.”

Lester “blared” Fox News “all day, every day,” according to Ludwig, who believes Lester’s news consumption has radicalized his conservative-leaning beliefs over the past five to six years.

“I feel like a lot of people of (Lester’s generation) are caught up in this 24-hour news cycle of fear and paranoia perpetuated by some other news stations, and he was fully into that,” Ludwig said.

Ludwig said his grandfather didn’t need to be scared of a young kid coming to his door at night, adding that it is “absurd.”

Lester’s family members are divided on whether Lester acted out of fear or racism.

Two relatives of Lester said they don’t believe he is a racist and that he probably acted out of fear when he shot Yarl, according to The Kansas City Star.

Ludwig admits he and his grandfather have become distant over the years because of their political disagreements. He said Lester believed in “QANON-level conspiracies” about election denial and other things.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Ludwig said when Lemon asked why he was speaking out against his grandfather. “In this country, it happens over and over again, where people get away (with) killing unarmed innocent Black people. I would have had the same energy for any other case, like I’ve had over and over again in this country.”

Ludwig described Lester’s house as having guns “stashed all over,” including a “big locker full of them.”

“But yeah, he was ready to defend his home as he would say,” Ludwig said in his interview with Lemon.