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Grandson Of White Homeowner Who Shot Black Teen For Ringing His Bell Says Relative Had 'Racist Tendencies And Beliefs'

Klint Ludwig, a grandson of Andrew Lester, the white man who shot Black teen Ralph Yarl for ringing his bell in Kansas City, says he wasn't surprised by the shooting and that he believes his grandfather holds "racist tendencies."

By Gina Salamone
A booking photo of Andrew Lester

A grandson of the elderly white man who shot a Black teen for ringing his doorbell in Kansas City, Missouri, says he wasn't surprised by his relative's actions and that he believes his grandfather holds "racist tendencies."

Andrew Lester, 84, shot 16-year-old Ralph Yarl twice on April 13 when the teen accidentally rang his bell after showing up at the wrong address to pick up his younger siblings. Yarl had intended to meet the kids at an address on NE 115th Terrace, but mistakenly showed up at the same house number on NE 115th St., Lester's home. 

RELATED: ‘A True Miracle:’ Black Teen Shot By White Homeowner After Going To Wrong House Expected To Make Full Recovery

Klint Ludwig, Lester's grandson, told CNN Thursday that when he heard about the shooting, he was not completely shocked by it.

“The warning signs were there," Ludwig said. "I wasn’t shocked when I heard the news. I believe he held — holds — racist tendencies and beliefs."

The grandson added that he decided to speak out because he was "disgusted" by the incident. "I thought it was terrible," he told CNN. "We — myself and my family — stand with Ralph Yarl in seeking justice. This is a horrible tragedy that never should have happened.” 

A photo of Ralph Yarl

He added that “people get away with killing unarmed, innocent Black people" too often in the U.S. 

Ludwig also claimed that his grandfather believed some right-wing conspiracy theories, experienced “fear and paranoia” brought on by far-right media, and has made racist comments about Black people in the past. 

Ludwig added that he and his grandfather mostly lost touch after the COVID-19 pandemic, after he disagreed with some of the conspiracy theories he said his grandfather believed in.

Other family members of Lester, however, have said that last week's shooting had nothing to do with race. Among them is Ludwig's older brother, Daniel Ludwig.

“It’s just sad and I wish it didn’t happen,” Daniel told The Kansas City Star of the shooting. “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 added that he doesn't think Lester would have shot Yarl if the teen hadn't “gone for the door.”

“If you look at the affidavit, there were actions taken that caused it,” Daniel told the Star, adding, “My grandpa’s side isn’t being reported.”

Lester's nephew, Dean Smith, also came to the shooter's defense, telling the Star that it would “be hard for me to believe” that his uncle is racist. Smith also called Lester a “decent man," and said he believes his relative became frightened when he heard his bell ring at night. “Eighty-four years old, living by himself," Smith said.

Lester was charged Monday with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. The assault charge could lead to up to life in prison if there's a conviction, while the other charge specifies three to 15 years in prison with a conviction. Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson said that there was a “racial component” to the shooting, but that nothing in the charging documents state the incident was racially motivated.

The incident unfolded at around 10 p.m. on April 13, when Lester shot Yarl in the forehead and then in his right arm.

The probable cause statement says that no words were exchanged before the shooting, the Associated Press reported, but Yarl said he heard Lester yell, “Don’t come around here" as he got up to run away after being shot.

Lester told cops that he heard the bell ring just as he'd gone to bed, according to the probable cause statement, and that he went to the door with his gun, where he says he saw Yarl pulling the exterior storm door handle. Lester claimed he was under the impression that someone was trying to break into his home.

The document also states that Yarl said he never pulled on the door, and that he rang the bell and then waited for someone to answer, according to CNN.  

Lee Merritt, Yarl's attorney, said that the teen never touched Lester’s door or tried to enter the home. “Mind you, touching the door in and of itself wouldn’t be enough to justify the use of deadly force,” Merritt said Wednesday, according to the Star.

Merritt added in an Instagram post on Wednesday that the teen was "home and looks great. Ralph is a WALKING MIRACLE with a head of steel."

“Ralph suffered a traumatic brain injury that he is still recovering from,” Merritt wrote. “Had the bullet hit his head a fraction of an inch in any other direction he would probably be dead right now. He is expected to make a FULL recovery, but it will take time."⁣

Yarl's mother, Cleo Nagbe, said on “CBS Mornings” that her son still has a long way to recovery.

“He’s home but I want to remind everybody that Ralph is home because he’s surrounded by a team of medical professionals," Nagbe said. "I’m a nurse for almost 20 years. His aunt is a physical therapist. His uncle is a medical professional. That’s why he’s home.”

Lester has pleaded guilty to the charges against him and is due back in court June 1, according to CNN.

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