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Mother of Black teen who was shot in Missouri says he is crying ‘buckets of tears’

Andrew Lester, 84 years old, shot Ralph Yarl in the head and the arm after the 16-year-old mistakenly rang his doorbell last Thursday

Trisha Loftis and her daughter Ashlyn, 13, sit outside the house where 16-year-old Ralph Yarl was shot
Trisha Loftis and her daughter Ashlyn, 13, sit outside the house where 16-year-old Ralph Yarl was shot several days earlier when he went to the wrong address to pick up his brothers.Charlie Riedel (AP)

The mother of Ralph Yarl, the Black teenager shot when he mistakenly went to the wrong Kansas City, Missouri, home to pick up his younger brothers, said her son is crying “buckets of tears” as he comes to grips with what happened to him. “Ralph is doing considerably well,” Cleo Nagbe told “CBS Mornings” co-host Gayle King on Tuesday. “Physically, mornings are hard, but his spirits are in a good place. I borrow from his spirits. He is in very good hands.”

Nagbe said the trauma remains evident. She said her 16-year-old son is “able to communicate mostly when he feels like it, but mostly he just sits there and stares and the buckets of tears just rolls down his eyes.”

“You can see that he is just replaying the situation over and over again, and that just doesn’t stop my tears either,” she said.

Kansas City police said the shooter, 84-year-old Andrew Lester, has still not been arrested. There was no answer at Lester’s home phone and he does not yet have an attorney, according to Missouri court records.

The shooting happened about 10 p.m. Thursday. Police Chief Stacey Graves said that Yarl’s parents asked him to pick up his twin brothers at a home on 115th Terrace. Yarl, an honor student and all-state band member, mistakenly went to 115th Street. When he rang the bell, Lester came to the door and shot Yarl in the forehead — then shot him again, in the right forearm.

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.

No words were exchanged before the shooting, but afterward, as Yarl got up to run, he heard Lester yell, “Don’t come around here,” the statement said.

Yarl ran to “multiple” homes asking for help before finding someone who would call the police, the statement said.

James Lynch was the neighbor who found Yarl. Lynch didn’t immediately respond to an interview request but his wife, Tiffany, in a brief interview confirmed an NBC News report that said Lynch heard shouting and saw Yarl banging on the door of another home.

“I heard somebody screaming, ‘Help, help, I’ve been shot!’” Lynch, who is white, told NBC. The father of three ran out and found Yarl covered in blood. Lynch checked his pulse and, when another neighbor came out with towels, helped stem the bleeding until paramedics arrived.

“He just wants the family to know that Ralph wasn’t alone,” Tiffany Lynch said, adding that the action was typical of her husband. “He helps out anyone he can and always has,” she said.

The shooting outraged many in Kansas City and across the country. Civic and political leaders — including President Joe Biden — demanded justice.

Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson said Monday that there was a “racial component” to the shooting. But Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Alexander Higginbotham clarified in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday that “there is not a racial element to the legal charges that were filed.”

Still, some — including lawyers for Yarl’s family — pressed the racial dimension of the case. A protest rally was planned for Tuesday afternoon, and NAACP leaders planned a news conference at the rally site.

“The police are not treating this case in the same way Black people accused of murder are treated,” Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel Jr. said in a statement. “A Black suspect would have been in jail.”

Rev. Vernon Howard, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City, called the shooting a “heinous and hate-filled crime.” Vice President Kamala Harris wrote on Twitter that “No child should ever live in fear of being shot for ringing the wrong doorbell.” The Missouri Senate held a moment of silence for Yarl on Monday.

The civil rights attorneys for Yarl’s family, Ben Crump and Lee Merritt, said in a statement that Biden called the teen’s family and offered “prayers for Ralph’s health and for justice.”

The assault charge carries a penalty of up to life in prison. Lester also was charged with armed criminal action, which has a penalty range of three to 15 years in prison. Lester was not charged with a hate crime. Thompson said first-degree assault is a higher-level felony with a more severe penalty.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the U.S. Department of Justice was investigating. Messages left with a spokesman were not immediately returned.

St. Louis defense attorney Nina McDonnell said Missouri’s hate crime statute is only used to enhance low-level felony or misdemeanor charges. Since first-degree assault is a class-A felony — the highest level, with a penalty of up to life in prison — filing a hate crime would have no impact on Lester’s penalty if convicted.

McDonnell expects Lester’s lawyers to cite self-defense under Missouri’s “Stand Your Ground” law. She said the law allows for use of deadly force if a person is in fear for his or her life.

“That’s going to be a huge hurdle to get around,” McDonnell said. “The defendant was in his house and has expressed that he was in fear.”

By Tuesday morning, a GoFundMe page set up for Yarl’s medical bills had raised $2.8 million from 75,000 donations.

Yarl is a bass clarinetist who earned Missouri All-State Band honorable mention and who plays several instruments in the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of Kansas City, Spoonmore wrote. A statement from the North Kansas City School District described Yarl as “an excellent student and talented musician.

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