Kansas City Mayor Says Ralph Yarl Shooting Shows ‘Fetishization Of Guns’

Mayor Quinton Lucas said the shooting is also an example of "this culture of paranoia and fear that's being drummed up by politicians."

The shooting earlier this month of 16-year-old Ralph Yarl by a white man whose home the Black teen mistakenly went to in Kansas City, Missouri, showcases the country’s “fetishization of guns,” according to the city’s mayor.

Andrew Lester, 84, has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action for shooting Yarl in the head and arm after the boy rang his doorbell when he arrived at the wrong address while trying to pick up his twin younger brothers on the evening of April 13. Yarl survived the encounter and is recovering at home with his family after spending multiple days in the hospital.

Yarl told police Lester shot at him once through his glass front door and again when the boy was already on the ground. Lester defended his actions by claiming he feared for his life.

“This was in the safest neighborhood of Kansas City … and this was a man who in his statement to the police said, ‘I was scared of this, in essence, large Black person outside of the door,’” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“He thought the child was 6 feet tall; he’s only 5-8,” he continued. “He thought [Yarl] was a threat; he was on the other side of two locked doors.”

Prior to the shooting, Lester had been spiraling down “the right-wing rabbit hole,” according to his grandson Klint Ludwig. The 84-year-old had spent the past several years buying into the fear and conspiracies peddled by conservative networks like Fox News and OAN, which Ludwig said “reinforces and galvanizes racist people and their beliefs.”

“This is the sort of thing that happens when you have this culture of paranoia and fear that’s being drummed up by politicians and some in the media, and of course this fetishization … of guns,” Lucas said on “Face the Nation.” “More ‘stand your ground’ laws, more laws that say you should use your gun and have it absolutely everywhere.”

While Clay County prosecutor Zachary Thompson said he believes there is a racial component to the shooting, he declined to charge Lester with a hate crime, attempted murder or civil rights violations. The prosecutor argued that, under Missouri law, a conviction of first-degree assault carries more time than an attempted murder charge.

“I think the challenge with a hate crimes charge is just the proof of intent,” Lucas told CBS. “What we do have is that there is a man who said that he was afraid of a Black male outside of his door and he shot twice. ... I believe that our federal investigators and so many others will look into this to see if there are further charges.”

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