Skip to Content

Shooting of Kansas City teen who went to wrong house puts spotlight on self-defense laws


The shooting of a Kansas City teen has put Missouri's self-defense laws under scrutiny.

A white man in his 80s was charged Monday for allegedly shooting a Black teen boy twice when he went to the wrong house last Thursday.

Andrew Lester, 84, is charged with first-degree assault for the shooting. The prosecuting attorney said there was a racial component at a news conference, but the charging documents do not say the shooting was racially motivated.

Ralph Yarl, 16, was released from the hospital Monday. Thursday night, Yarl went to the wrong house when going to pick up a sibling. After ringing the doorbell, he was shot twice. The probable cause statement says the two did not speak before the shooting, but as Yarl ran away Lester yelled, "Don't come around here."

WATCH: Prosecutor's news conference announcing the charges

Missouri has a "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows the use of physical force against someone when there's reason to believe you're in danger. The law specifies it does not apply when the person using force was the initial aggressor.

Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said in a news conference Sunday that it's a possibility for Lester to use the "Stand Your Ground" law as a defense in this case.

Retired prosecutor Bill Tackett said Lester does not have a case for self-defense.

"For self-defense to be even accepted at trial in this case, there'd have to be evidence that there was a threat," Tackett said. "All right, and that was he felt like he had to use deadly force. In other words, someone was trying to kill him or threatening to kill him. And you don't have that here."

There are three bills currently in the Missouri legislature that would enhance self-defense laws in the state.

House Bill 468, sponsored by Rep. Ben Baker (R-Neosho) would take the burden of proof away from the person who claims self-defense. In Lester's case, it would mean he would not have to prove he felt he was in danger. Senate Bill 43, sponsored by Sen. Rick Brattin (R-Bates), does the same thing. Both bills were referred to committees, but not scheduled for hearings.

Senate Bill 262, sponsored by Sen. Karla Eslinger (R-Douglass), would expand self-defense law to also include workplaces. Currently, the law only applies to private property, such as someone's home, in a provision commonly referred to as the "Castle Doctrine."

This bill was referred to a public safety committee, but not scheduled for a hearing.

"If you're going to inject that into the case and say, hey, it was just self-defense," Tackett said. "You've got the burden of proof on that, to suggest that somehow you can claim self-defense, and then the person you shot, assuming they live, has to now prove it wasn't. It just flies against legal logic."

Article Topic Follows: Missouri

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


ABC 17 News is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content