A teenage boy made a mistake while picking up his siblings. He rang the wrong doorbell. The mistake left him with two bullet wounds after the homeowner saw him at the door and shot.
The teen will survive his injuries, but what will happen to the man who shot him for ringing the wrong doorbell?
Ringing the Wrong Doorbell
Raphael Yarl’s younger siblings were at a friend’s house on April 13, 2023. Yarl’s mother told him to go pick them up at 115th Terrace, a street in the northern part of Kansas City, Missouri.
But 16-year-old Yarl made a mistake. He went to 115th Street instead of 115th Terrace.
According to Yarl’s aunt and lawyers, Yarl parked in the driveway, walked up to the door, and rang the doorbell. It was shortly before 10 p.m. The homeowner, 84-year-old Andrew D. Lester came to the door. No words were exchanged. Lester opened the main door and used a .32-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver to shoot at Yarl through the storm door, hitting him twice, once in the head and once in the arm.
Yarl’s aunt, Faith Spoonmore shared Yarl’s side of the story, as reported by NPR. “The man inside opened up the door and shot him in the head through the glass door. When Raphael was on the ground, he shot him again,” she said.
The 16-year-old high school junior got up and ran to a neighbor’s house for help. He was taken to a hospital, where he received care and was released three days later.
Why Did the Homeowner Shoot?
Lester called 911 after the incident. He was taken into custody and brought in for questioning.
According to a police statement, Lester said he shot at Yarl because he was afraid. He thought his house was being broken into. He saw a tall man at the door and claimed Yarl was pulling at the storm door handle.
Yarl said he didn’t attempt to open the door, and it appears that he never crossed the threshold of the door.
Lester was released from custody without charges. Missouri law requires that a suspect must be charged within 24 hours or else be released. Police said Lester was released because he was cooperating and not considered a flight risk.
But the case did not end there.
Four days after the shooting, charges were filed. Clay County prosecutor Zachary Thompson determined that Lester’s actions were criminal and charged him with first-degree assault and armed criminal action, as reported by the New York Times.
The shooting took place in Missouri and will follow Missouri law. In Missouri, armed criminal action carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Will the Shooter See Jail Time?
Lester’s legal team may choose to use two defenses to fight the charges against him. They may use laws often referred to as “stand your ground” and “the castle doctrine.”
Missouri, like Florida, is one of about 30 states with stand your ground laws. In general, stand your ground laws say a person has no duty to retreat from a hostile situation before using deadly force. If a person feels their life or the life of another is in danger, they may use deadly force.
The castle doctrine is another type of self defense law. It says a person has no duty to retreat before using deadly force if they are in their home and believe an intruder intends to harm them or someone else.
For Lester to use a stand your ground or castle doctrine defense, he would have to prove that he reasonably felt his life was in danger when he fired his gun at Yarl.
Since no words were shared between the man and the teen and Yarl didn’t appear to try to enter the home, it may be a difficult case to make.
When Lester was formally arraigned, he pleaded not guilty. We will wait and see how Lester’s team may try to defend his actions — and if a jury agrees with their position.
Supporting Victims of Gun Violence
The Oulson Family Foundation was created to honor the life and legacy of Chad Oulson, whose life ended in a senseless act of gun violence. Learn more about The Oulson Family Foundation and see how you can help support victims of gun violence.