[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
If you’ve been paying attention to the tragic case of the shooting of young Ralph Yarl — and politics over the past few years — you may not be too surprised by the latest development.
For those who haven’t been following, last Thursday night the 16-year-old was supposed to be picking up his younger brothers from their friend’s house but went to the wrong Kansas City, Missouri address by accident. When he rang the doorbell, the homeowner, 84-year-old Andrew Lester, apparently freaked out, opened the inner door, and shot the honor roll student in the head, right through the glass outer door. Then he allegedly shot the boy again on the ground. Miraculously, Yarl was able to get up and run to a nearby house, where neighbors tried to stop the bleeding until paramedics arrived. He is still being treated for his serious wounds — but so far the news sounds surprisingly good considering he was SHOT IN THE HEAD. You can still donate to the GoFundMe to help support the teen HERE.
Meanwhile Lester was charged with two felonies — assault in the first degree and armed criminal action. He turned himself in to police but pleaded not guilty, claiming he was “scared to death” when his doorbell got him out of bed, and he saw a “Black male approximately 6 feet tall” trying to pull on the outer door. According to court docs:
“He stated he believed someone was attempting to break into the house and shot twice (through an exterior storm door) within a few seconds of opening the (main) door.”
Yarl says he never tried to open the door, just rang the bell. But even in his own version of events, Lester doesn’t try to ask what the young man wants, he isn’t neighborly, he isn’t verbally threatened. He just gets scared seeing a Black man at his door and opens fire.
If you figured this was a result of incubating in the bubble of Fox News and other right-wing news media, big shocker — you’d be right. Lester’s grandson has come forward to give the country a clearer insight into who his grandfather is — and has become.
Klint Ludwig went on CNN Thursday morning and spoke plainly about his grandfather, saying he was “disgusted” by what he’d done. When asked if Lester was racist, he stated:
“I believe he holds racist tendencies and beliefs.”
But there’s a big difference between “racist tendencies” and the kind of irrational fear that would lead someone to shoot a stranger. And that has gotten worse the past few years, says Ludwig. He says his grandfather, a “stock American Christian male” has become radicalized over the past five years or so, starting with his support of Donald Trump. But that’s just part of it — as he’s been warped by conspiracy theories like QAnon and has recently been saying “weird racist things.”
Ludwig made clear he believes this is NOT an isolated incident, either:
“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. And he was fully into that, sitting and watching Fox News all day, every day, blaring in his living room. And I think that stuff really kind of reinforces this negative view of minority groups. It doesn’t necessarily lead people to be racist, but it reinforces and galvanizes racist people and their beliefs.”
It also drives people to violence. We already have multiple examples of cases where family men have fallen down the rabbit hole of right-wing conspiracies and QAnon — and it ultimately drove them to kill members of their own family.
We’ve said multiple times in our writing on the subject that this wasn’t going to stop. We’re not happy about being proven right, but one just has to look at what’s being fed to people. Just look at everything you get recommended on YouTube and other outlets. Now imagine someone with less media savvy, who can’t tell the difference between the fearmongering and the news. Then, as they buy into it more and more, the beliefs get stranger and stranger, until it’s not just racism and hatred, it’s talk of “serpent DNA” and other inane ramblings.
Combine that with unregulated gun ownership, and you have a recipe for exactly this sort of incident. That’s exactly the message Ludwig wants to get out there — this is happening to a LOT of parents and grandparents out there.
As for why he’s speaking out, he says it’s “right thing to do” — family or no:
“In this country, it happens over and over again where people get away with killing unarmed innocent black people, and I would have had the same energy for any other case.”
Speaking directly to the teen victim, Ludwig says he — and his family — are on Yarl’s side:
“Proud of you, Ralph. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I understand you’re an amazing kid and I think you’re going to grow up to be an amazing man. You didn’t do anything wrong. You deserve justice, and my family stands with you.”
[Image via CNN/The Tonight Show/YouTube/Clay County Missouri Sheriff.]