(CNN) A black teenager who authorities say was shot by an 84-year-old white homeowner after going to the wrong address in Kansas City has been given a positive prognosis but still faces a long road to recovery as his family fights back for justice in his case, according to his lawyers.
“On Thursday night, doctors scraped bullet fragments from his brain. He was released from the hospital on Saturday,” family attorney Jarl Lee Merritt told CNN Tuesday night, calling Ralph’s recovery a miracle.
Ralph, 16, rang the doorbell on April 13 and was shot in the head and arm by the homeowner, who opened fire through a locked glass door without exchanging a word, according to statements in a probable cause document obtained by CNN.
Homeowner Andrew Lester — who faces two felony counts of first-degree assault and armed criminal action — told police he opened fire because he thought the teenager was trying to break in and was “scared to death.” therefore the boy’s size, according to the document.
Lester turned himself in to a detention center on Tuesday, then was released hours later on $200,000 bond. He is due in court on Wednesday afternoon.
CNN was unable to reach the homeowner. CNN has not yet determined whether Lester has an attorney.
The indictment comes amid ongoing questions about the role of race in the shooting and the treatment of Lester by law enforcement. Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson said, “There was a racial component to this case,” but did not elaborate.
Speaking to CNN’s Don Lemon on Wednesday, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas expressed his displeasure that Lester was released on bond.
“I understand how these things work, but it’s terrible, it’s a shame someone who commits a crime like this, someone who I see as a threat to society because I don’t know what house he’s in right now,” he said. “I don’t know if this is a house that the next Amazon driver or postal worker or campaign worker might come knocking on, and then what?” So what does anyone have to worry about?’
The incident was one of a number of shootings in the past week involving young people who were met with gunfire after apparently going to the wrong place by mistake. In rural New York, a 20-year-old woman who was in a vehicle parked in the wrong driveway was fatally shot by a homeowner, and in Texas, two cheerleaders were shot in a supermarket parking lot after one mistakenly took the vehicle to a man for her own.
Ralph’s shooting fueled protests in Kansas City and spurred a “Unity March” in support of the teenager Tuesday by about 1,500 students at Staley High School, where he was a junior, CNN affiliate KMBC reported.
Teen’s family says he expects a full recovery
On Tuesday, Ralph’s attorney and aunt disputed the idea that the boy’s size could be intimidating.
Ralph is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 140 pounds, Merritt said Tuesday night.
“He’s the least imposing kid I’ve ever met,” Merritt said. “He’s a 16-year-old musician. He’s not known for his physical prowess.”
Ralph’s aunt, Faith Spoonmore, also questioned how the boy could have looked menacing.
“There’s no way you can see fear when you look at that child — if you really look at him, not just the color of his skin. There’s no way you can see fear,” she said Tuesday morning.
Lucas, the mayor, said he believes Ralph was racially profiled by the shooter.
“To pretend that race isn’t part of this whole situation would be burying your head in the sand,” Lucas said. “That boy was shot because he existed while Black.”
Despite being shot in the head, the boy’s prognosis is “very, very positive,” Merritt said.
“He has a prognosis of a full recovery, minus scarring and long-term, maybe, CTE and PTSD symptoms,” Merritt said Tuesday night.
Ralph and his mother, Cleo Nagbe, spoke with President Joe Biden by phone Monday night, a White House official told CNN. The conversation also touched on their families, their love of music and Ralph’s dream of getting a chemical engineering degree at Texas A&M University, the official said. Vice President Kamala Harris also spoke with Ralph on Tuesday afternoon, according to Merritt.
A GoFundMe page started to help the Yarl family with medical expenses had raised more than $3 million from more than 80,000 individual donations by Tuesday night — up from $2 million the night before.
“Ralph is currently at home with the family. He can move and communicate. A true miracle considering what he survived,” Spoonmore posted in an update to the page.
Still, the teenager, who plays bass clarinet and is a band leader at school, faces a long road to recovery, both emotionally and physically, according to his aunt.
“He lost a part of himself that day. A lot has changed since that happened. The way he’s going to walk through this world is going to be completely different because of what happened,” Spoonmore said.
Questions about Leicester’s release
Questions remain as to why Lester was released hours after he was taken into custody the night of the April 13 shooting.
That night, Ralph was asked to pick up his siblings and mistakenly went to 1100 NE 115th Street instead of 1100 NE 115th Terrace, police and Ralph’s family said.
When he arrived at the house, Ralph said he rang the doorbell and waited for a while before a man eventually answered the door and immediately shot him in the head, causing him to fall, the probable cause statement said. While the teenager was still on the ground, the man fired again, shooting him in the arm, Ralph told police.
Lester told police he opened his interior door and “saw a black male, approximately 6 feet tall, pulling on the exterior door handle,” according to the document.
“He stated he believed someone was trying to break into the house and fired two shots within seconds of opening the door,” the probable cause statement said.
The boy told police he didn’t pull on the door, according to the probable cause affidavit.
Police responded just before 10 p.m. that night after receiving a report of shots fired. They arrived to find Ralph injured in the street. The boy went to neighbors seeking help after he was shot, according to police.
Lester was taken into custody and then released less than two hours later, two officials with the Kansas City Police Department’s Detention Unit told CNN.
Merritt told CNN Tuesday night that he had not received a satisfactory answer as to why the suspect had not been arrested until Tuesday, days after the shooting.
“I share the outrage and concern of many asking why,” Mayor Lucas told CNN Tuesday morning.
“In Missouri, you can have a 24-hour hold. Here it is clear that it was two or three hours when they interrogated the suspect. He was able to return home that evening,” he added.
Prosecutor Thompson said earlier that Lester was released because police acknowledged that more investigation needed to be done.
Kansas City Councilman Eric Bunch said the interaction should not have ended in a shooting, whether or not Ralph intended to knock on Lester’s door.
“You have a right to go to somebody’s door and ring the bell,” Bunch said. “That’s your underlying condition and I think unfortunately that often leads to cases like this. Add implicit bias and you have a recipe for disaster.”
It remains unclear whether “Stand Your Ground” laws will play a role in Lester’s case. Laws allow people to respond to threats or force without fear of prosecution anywhere a person has a right to be.
Merritt told CNN he did not believe such a defense would apply, saying Ralph was never a threat.
“These are self-defense laws,” Merritt said Tuesday morning. “They say you have a right to defend yourself against force used against you… He never faced force. Ralph didn’t even try to grab the doorknob. Ring the doorbell and wait.”
CNN’s Taylor Romine, Cheri Mossberg, Paradise Afshar and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.