Andrew Lester’s grandson reveals history of racist comments and ‘crazy’ Fauci conspiracy

Andrew Lester’s grandson claims his grandfather embraced right-wing conspiracy theories

Maroosha Muzaffar,Rachel Sharp
Thursday 20 April 2023 16:27 BST

Related video: Ralph Yarl’s mother describes son’s injuries from shooting

One of the grandsons of the man accused of shooting Black teenager Ralph Yarl said his grandfather believed in a “crazy” conspiracy theory involving US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci.

Ralph, a 16-year-old high school junior, was shot twice last Thursday when he went to pick up his younger twin brothers from a friend’s house in Kansas City, Missouri, on 13 April.

Kansas City police said the teen had gone to collect his siblings from a friend’s house on 115th Terrace, but got the address muddled up and accidentally rang the doorbell of a home on 115th Street, where he was shot.

Andrew Lester, an 84-year-old resident, has been charged with opening fire on him. Ralph was shot twice allegedly by Mr Lester.

Klint Ludwig, one of Mr Lester’s grandsons, said he became estranged from his grandfather over his embracing of right-wing conspiracy theories.

During the Covid pandemic, in an instance when the family was sitting together, Mr Lester had shared a conspiracy theory against Mr Fauci, said Mr Ludwig, without elaborating on what the conspiracy theory was.

“I was like, ‘Man, this sounds crazy’,” Mr Ludwig told The New York Times. “I told him it was ridiculous.”

The two have been distant from each other since then, he said.

The 28-year-old grandson also claimed Mr Lester used to make disparaging comments about Black people, gay people, and immigrants – and kept a large number of firearms in his home, including rifles and handguns.

Mr Ludwig told CNN that his grandfather has a history of making “racist comments” and of an interest in “QAnon-level conspiracy theories”.

“I believe he holds racist tendencies and beliefs,” he said, adding that he has bought into “conspiracies and weird random, racist things”.

“A lot of it was like the QAnon-level conspiracies of election denying and he got really weird about some Fauci dogs... And I would push back on some of that stuff and he couldn’t handle being pushed back on and at a certain point we kind fof lost touch and I think it was more his choice than mine,” he said.

Andrew Lester appears in court to answer charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action on Wednesday, April 19, 2023 in Liberty, Mo.

In part, Mr Ludwig said he attributes his grandfather’s actions to being “scared” because of “this 24 hour news cycle of fear and paranoia” from right-wing networks.

“I feel like a lot of people of that generation are caught up in this 24 hour news cycle of fear and paranoia perpetuated by some other news stations,” he told Don Lemon.

“He would sit and watch Fox News all day every day blaring in his living room.

“I think that stuff really reinforces that negative view of minority groups and leads people – it doesn’t necessarily lead people to be racist, but it reinforces and galvanises racist people in their beliefs.”

Mr Lester’s grandson said he felt the need to speak out against his relative because it is the “right thing to do”.

“[In] this country, it happens over and over again where people get away with killing unarmed, innocent Black people… people need to speak out and not make any excuses for this kind of behaviour and this violence,” he said.

He said that the family is “disgusted” by the 84-year-old’s shooting of the Black teenager.

“Myself and my family stand with Ralph Yarl and seeking justice. This is a horrible tragedy, it never should have happened,” he said.

Mr Lester pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault and armed criminal action at his first appearance in Clay County Court on Wednesday.

Lee Merritt, the lawyer for the Yarl family, told reporters on Wednesday that the shooting was now being probed by the Justice Department as a hate crime.

The 16-year-old’s mother Cleo Nagbe told CBS on Tuesday about the horror injuries her son suffered in the shooting.

“Ralph was shot on the top of his left eye – his frontal lobe and the top of his right arm,” she said.

“He had the bullet up here [in his head] for about 12 hours before it was taken out, so that injury is extensive.”

Ms Nagbe said the “extensive” injuries mean Ralph has a long road ahead to recovery.

Ralph Yarl was shot twice on 13 April

Mr Lester is accused of shooting the 16-year-old high school junior twice on 13 April when the boy went to pick up his younger twin brothers from a friend’s house.

Kansas City Police said that Ralph had gone to collect his siblings from a friend’s house on 115th Terrace in Kansas City, Missouri, but got muddled up with the address and accidentally went to a home on 115th Street by mistake.

There, Ralph allegedly rang the doorbell and the Mr Andrew Lester opened fire on him, shooting him twice.

The Black teenager was rushed to hospital in critical condition.

The shooting and the treatment of the white homeowner has sparked outrage from celebrities, civil rights attorneys and the victim’s family.

Ralph Yarl is recovering at home from his injuries

While Ralph spent days in hospital and is now recovering from his injuries at home, Mr Lester was detained for less than two hours after the shooting – before being released without charge.

Mr Lester was finally charged on Monday afternoon with two felonies but more than 20 hours passed before he was taken into custody, when he surrendered to authorities.

He was released again less than two hours later after posting $200,000 bond.

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