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Black Kansas City teen Ralph Yarl sues white man who shot him for ringing the doorbell

 Ralph Yarl takes the stand on August 31, 2023, in a preliminary hearing for Andrew Lester, the white Kansas City man who shot him in April.
Ralph Yarl takes the stand on August 31, 2023, in a preliminary hearing for Andrew Lester, the white Kansas City man who shot him in April.

Ralph Yarl, 17, filed a civil suit in Clay County Court seeking monetary damages from Andrew “Dan” Lester, along with Lester’s homeowners’ association. The HOA failed to take precautions about a “potentially dangerous individual,” the lawsuit says.

The family of 17-year-old Ralph Yarl on Monday filed a civil lawsuit against Andrew “Dan” Lester, the 84-year-old white man who shot the teen last year on his doorstep, along with Lester’s homeowners association.

The lawsuit was filed in Clay County Court, which is where Lester is scheduled to stand trial for first-degree assault and armed criminal action for the shooting of Yarl in April 2023. Lester’s trial is set for October.

Yarl’s mother, Cleo Nagbe, said in a news release that the case is not just about seeking justice for her son. By including the Highland Acres Homes Association, Inc., Nagbe said the lawsuit “underscores the importance of collective responsibility in safeguarding our communities.”

“Their knowledge of a potentially dangerous individual in the neighborhood without taking adequate precautions is unacceptable,” Nagbe wrote. “This case is not just about seeking justice for Ralph but about advocating for systemic changes that prioritize the safety and well-being of all children.”

Nagbe said she also hopes the civil suit will create a conversation about the “importance of responsible gun ownership and community safety measures of using words, not weapons.”

A specific financial figure was not included in the lawsuit. Yarl and Nagbe are being represented by Lee Merritt, a well-known national civil rights attorney.

Yarl was shot by Lester about 10 p.m. the night of April 13, 2023, when he approached the wrong address while seeking to pick up his brothers from a play date. Lester's address similar to the place where Yarl was supposed to be.

Lester, who later said he saw a large Black man at his door and was scared, shot through a glass storm door and then shot Yarl once again when he fell.

During a hearing last August, prosecutors played a recording of the 911 call that Lester made that night, where Lester can be heard telling police that someone rang his “damn doorbell.” He then told police, “He wanted in my house but I shot him.”

Yarl had to undergo neurosurgery the morning after the shooting to remove the bullet fragment that had lodged in his skull. He was also injured in his upper right arm. Yarl recovered from his injuries and is a high school senior.

In addition to claims against Lester, the civil lawsuit says the HOA should have been aware of Lester’s “propensity for violence, access to danger weapons and racial animus.”

Yarl suffered bodily injury and emotional and psychological trauma because the HOA failed to prohibit Lester from shooting him, the suit alleges.

An HOA representative could not be reached for comment.

Copyright 2024 KCUR 89.3

Peggy Lowe joined Harvest Public Media in 2011, returning to the Midwest after 22 years as a journalist in Denver and Southern California. Most recently she was at The Orange County Register, where she was a multimedia producer and writer. In Denver she worked for The Associated Press, The Denver Post and the late, great Rocky Mountain News. She was on the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of Columbine. Peggy was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan in 2008-09. She is from O'Neill, the Irish Capital of Nebraska, and now lives in Kansas City. Based at KCUR, Peggy is the analyst for The Harvest Network and often reports for Harvest Public Media.