Read a PDF of our statement here.

On Monday, prosecutors in Clay County, Missouri charged 84-year-old Andrew Lester in the near-fatal shooting of Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old Black child who accidentally rang Lester’s doorbell while trying to pick up his younger siblings. According to law enforcement, preliminary evidence shows that Lester fired on the teen through a glass door, shooting him in the head and again in the arm. There is no evidence that Ralph entered the home. Lester has been charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. Ralph has been released from the hospital and is still recovering from injuries.

In response to the events, President and Director-Counsel of the Legal Defense Fund (LDF), Janai S. Nelson issued the following statement:

“We are relieved that Ralph Yarl is recovering from his wounds at home with his family, and we wish him all the best in his healing. While we are encouraged that the man who shot him has been charged, this is only the beginning of accountability — it will not erase the wounds inflicted on this child or the trauma he has endured. Justice cannot exist in a country where Black children and their families continue to be subject to wanton racial violence. No family should have to worry that their child may not live through the night, simply because they rang the wrong doorbell. No child should have to run from house to house in search of help, only to be made to lie on the ground with their hands up while they are bleeding from gunshot wounds. Yet the chilling gun violence suffered by Ralph Yarl, and the inhumanity of bystanders as described in news reports, reminds us all of the harrowing and disturbing realities still facing Black people in America.

“While we await further details from law enforcement officials, Clay County prosecutors have indicated that ‘there was a racial component’ in the shooting of this Black child. Too often, these incidents end with a shattered family grieving the loss of their loved one. Ahmaud Arbery was shot while jogging down the street. Amir Locke and Breonna Taylor were shot and killed in their own homes by police. Jordan Davis, at 17 years old, was murdered by a white man who claimed he was playing music too loudly. And for accidentally ringing the wrong doorbell, Ralph Yarl’s life was nearly taken. We demand that there be full transparency regarding the investigation into the shooting of Ralph Yarl, including the apparent racial motivation of the shooter and the police’s decision to initially delay Andrew Lester’s arrest.”


Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.