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Some have charged a hate crime against the man accused in the shooting of black teen Ralph Earl

Kansas City, Mo. — Ralph Earl fought back from being shot after going to the wrong house to pick up his younger brothers, a white Kansas City, Missouri, homeowner who shot a black teenager. turn yourselfHe was then released on bond on Tuesday.

Andrew Lester, 84, surrendered at the Clay County Detention Center a day later Charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. He posted bond Tuesday afternoon and was arraigned Wednesday afternoon. He does not yet have an attorney listed.

Lester carries a life sentence for the assault charge. Punishment for armed criminal action ranges from 3-15 years in prison.

Andrew Lester Booking photo from April 18, 2023.

Kansas City Police Department

Some civil rights leaders urged a hate crime charge, but Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson said first-degree assault is a high-level felony with a long possible sentence of life in prison.

Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Earl family, said the case should qualify as a hate crime.

“Ralph Earl was shot because he had nothing but black skin,” he said.

As Earl recovered from his wounds, supporters, civil rights leaders and politicians rallied in downtown Kansas City to call for justice for the 16-year-old and a powerful effort to improve race relations in Missouri and the United States.

Speakers urged the crowd to support Earl, fight for justice and remove politicians who pass discriminatory laws and support gun rights.

Many held signs that read, “She’s only 16” and “Is Kansas City here? Stop gun violence.”

Merritt said the family is also angry that police detained Lester for just two hours after the shooting, when they could have legally detained him for 24.

“If they would have held him for 24 hours, they would have held him long enough to get a statement from the kid with the bullet in his brain,” Merritt said. They received the statement the very next day.

the time An interview with “CBS Mornings” on Tuesday Cleo Nagbe, Ralph’s mother, said her son was shot in the upper right arm and in the left frontal lobe above the left eye. He said the bullet in his head was not removed for 12 hours and that the “residual effects” of that injury would stay with his son “for quite some time.”

Ralph Earle

Ralph Earl in Unintended Family Pictures.

CBS Boston

He said Ralph is fine but the trauma remains obvious.

He’s able to communicate “when he feels like it,” she says, but “mostly he just sits there and stares and buckets of tears just roll down his eyes.”

“You see him repeating the situation over and over again. And it doesn’t stop me from crying, because when you see your baby sitting there and constantly he’s just — tears are rolling down his sides. Eyes, you can’t tell him anything,” Nagbe said.

The The shooting took place around 10 pm on Thursday. Police Chief Stacy Graves said Earle’s parents asked him to take his twin brothers into a home at 115 Terrace.

Earl, an honors student and all-state band member, ended up on 115th Street by mistake – a block away from where he wanted to be. As he rang the bell, Lester came to the door and shot Earl in the forehead – then shot him again, right in the forehead.

Lester told police he lives alone and was “scared to death” when he saw a black male on the porch and thought someone was trying to break in, according to the probable cause statement. He told police he was intimidated by the man’s size, Lester’s age (84) and Lester’s “inability to defend himself.”

No words were exchanged before the shooting, but later, as Earl ran up, he heard Lester yell, “Don’t come that way,” the statement said.

Earl ran to “several” houses and asked for help before finding someone to call police, the statement said.

James Lynch was the neighbor who found Earl. He did not respond to requests for an interview, but his wife confirmed an NBC News report saying Lynch heard screams and saw Earl banging on the door of another home.

“I heard somebody yell, ‘Help, help, I’ve been shot!'” Lynch, who is also White, told NBC. The father of three ran outside to find Earl covered in blood. Lynch checked her pulse and when another neighbor came out with a towel, helped stop the bleeding until paramedics arrived.

The shooting outraged many in Kansas City and across the country. President Biden was among those demanding justice. He spoke with Earle on Monday and invited him to the White House.

“No parent should have to worry that their child will be shot after ringing the wrong doorbell,” Mr. Biden tweeted. “We must continue to fight gun violence.”

Thompson said Monday that the shooting had a “racial element.” He did not elaborate. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Alexander Higginbotham said in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday that “there is no racial element to the legal complaint that was filed.”

Merritt said the Earl family met privately with Thompson and why he said there was a racial aspect to the case, without elaborating. The prosecutor said he was “echoing the words of law enforcement that there is clearly a racial dynamic in this case,” said Merritt, who called the answer “shallow.”

At Tuesday’s rally at police headquarters, about 150 supporters chanted “Justice for Ralph” and demanded a U.S. Justice Department investigation. Lester, activists said, received preferential treatment because he was white.

Bishop Frank Douglas of the Church of God in Christ said the United States was experiencing its own version of racism and that if the gunman had been black, it would have been “lynching time.”

“We’re highlighting what’s been going on for over 100 years,” Douglas said. “We are redeemed but not loved.”

Karen Allman, 61, said she had lived in Lester’s neighborhood for 32 years, though she didn’t know him or hear the shooting. She said she attended Wednesday’s rally to support Earl and his family because “if we don’t speak up, this will continue to happen.”

“I don’t know what they go through every day being black,” said Allman, who is white. “But I know if we don’t stand with them, they don’t have a chance to fix this.”

Charging Lester with a hate crime would likely mean a shorter sentence if he is convicted, experts said.

Washington University School of Law professor Peter Joy said the state’s hate crime laws are only used to escalate low-level felony or misdemeanor charges.

“What the prosecutor did was charge (Lester) with the highest level of felony they could,” Joy said.

Legal experts believe Lester’s lawyers will claim self-defense under Missouri’s “stand your ground” law, which allows the use of deadly force if a person fears for their life. Missouri is one of about 30 states with such laws.

Robert Spitzer, professor emeritus of political science at the State University of New York, Cortland, whose research focuses on gun policy and politics, said the Missouri law provides “wide latitude for people to use lethal force.”

St. Louis defense attorney Nina McDonnell agreed. He said prosecutors have a strong case but the Stand Your Ground law defense has a “huge hurdle” to overcome.

“The defendant was in his home and expressed that he was scared,” McDonnell said.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe fundraiser for Earle, which had a goal of $2,500,000, had already surpassed $3 million as of early Wednesday.

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