Clay County prosecutor receives death threats in relation to Andrew Lester case

Clay County prosecutor Zachary Thompson said he has received death threats over his handling of...
Clay County prosecutor Zachary Thompson said he has received death threats over his handling of the prosecution of Andrew Lester.(KCTV5)
Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 2:44 PM CDT
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CLAY COUNTY, Mo. (KCTV) - As Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson seeks justice in the case stemming from the shooting of Ralph Yarl, the Clay County Sheriff’s Department confirmed to KCTV5 that Thompson has received death threats.

“I can confirm that our office has received death threats, including threats specifically targeting Mr. Thompson,” a Sheriff’s Department spokesperson told KCTV5 on Friday. “Threats received were reported to the Clay County Sheriff’s Department.”

Thompson released his own statement addressing the threats.

“I chose to become the prosecutor and understood the risks that come with that responsibility,” Thompson said. “Victims of crime have not chosen their role. My focus, and the focus of our community, should be firmly on seeking justice for those victims. My message to anyone who seeks to influence the decisions of this office through threats to me or my family is that they will not succeed.”

On Wednesday, a Clay County judge granted the motion to seal the case of 84-year-old Andrew Lester, who shot Yarl on April 13 on the doorstep of his home.

Lester has pleaded not guilty to armed criminal action and first-degree assault charges and remains free on a $200,000 bond. He is accused of shooting Ralph Yarl on April 13 after the 16-year-old confused Lester’s north Kansas City address with a home about a block away where he was supposed to pick up his younger brothers.

Yarl was shot in the head and arm, and he was released from the hospital after being admitted for three days.

In a court filing, Thompson stated that if Lester’s records are sealed, the public has a right to know why. Thompson didn’t oppose Lester’s request but said there has to be a strong legal precedent established in favor of the public’s right to access.

On Thursday, civil rights attorney Lee Merritt and Yarl’s family held a virtual press conference. In it, the attorney representing the teen’s family said they had requested a special prosecutor in the case.

Merritt said he asked that Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker handle the prosecution of the 84-year-old man charged in the shooting of Ralph Yarl. Merritt said that Thompson is not recusing himself in the case and is moving forward as the lead prosecutor. He also said the family was initially frustrated with the timeline in Thompson charging Lester.