Andrew Lester set to stand trial over shooting of Black teen Ralph Yarl

Mr Lester is charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action

Andrea Blanco
Thursday 31 August 2023 22:09 BST

Ralph Yarl’s father describes ‘emotional roller coaster’

The elderly Kansas City man who shot a Black teen after he rang his doorbell by mistake will stand trial in the high-profile case.

Clay County Judge Louis Angles has ruled that Andrew Lester, 84, must face trial over the 13 April shooting of 16-year-old Ralph Yarl. Mr Yarl was supposed to pick up his little brothers but went to the wrong block and accidentally arrived at Mr Lester’s home.

The minor was struck in the head and his right arm and continues to recover from a severe brain injury. The shooting and Mr Leter’s delayed arrest sparked condemnation and heated debates about gun violence and race across the nation.

Judge Angles’s ruling on Thursday came after a preliminary hearing in which several witnesses, including Mr Yarl, took the stand. Several 911 calls shown in court and witness testimony painted a more clear timeline of the events leading up to the shooting and its aftermath.

In an emergency call placed by Mr Lester and played in court, he is heard admitting to deputies that he shot Mr Yarl — who he described as a “six-foot Black man.” Mr Lester later told police that he opened fire through the door without warning because he was “scared to death” that the teen would break in.

A neighbour of Mr Lester also testified on Thursday that Yarl came banging on her door for help but she was initially advised by 911 dispatchers to stay inside her home while authorities assessed the situation. When she saw that other residents of the area rushed to help Yarl, she also exited her home.

“[He told me,] ‘I was supposed to pick up my little brothers from their friend’s house. And I went and knocked on the door, and the man came to the door with a gun and shot me in the head,’” the neighbour said, according to KMBC.

FILE - Andrew Lester will stand trial in the shooting of Black teen Ralph Yarl

Law enforcement who testified on Thursday said that Mr Lester had cooperated with the investigation and admitted to the shooting since first responders first arrived at the scene.

Meanwhile, Mr Lester’s attorney Steve Salmon emphasized that the elderly man had carried out the attack while in fear for his life. Judge Angles also honoured Mr Salmon’s request to keep the case partially sealed amid harassment his client is reportedly facing.

The attorney said that Mr Lester has had his home egged and spray painted and now needs assistance from law enforcement for transportation.

Yarl, 16, is still recovering froma a severe brain injury following the 13 April shooting

“With his age and physical infirmity, he is unable to defend himself,” Mr Salmon said.

Prosecutors claimed there was a racial component to the shooting. According to a probable cause statement, no words were exchanged before the shooting, but as Mr Yarl got up to run, he reportedly heard Mr Lester yell, “Don’t come around here.”

Mr Lester was arrested four days after the shooting and charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Mr Lester is expected to be arraigned on 20 September.

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