White Man Who Shot Black Teen to Stand Trial

Andrew Lester will face assault and armed criminal charges for wounding Ralph Yarl
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 19, 2023 2:44 PM CDT
Updated Aug 31, 2023 4:10 PM CDT
Family Lawyer Says Ralph Yarl Is Making Stunning Recovery
People attend a rally to support Ralph Yarl, Tuesday, April 18, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo.   (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
UPDATE Aug 31, 2023 4:10 PM CDT

A judge on Thursday ordered a trial for an 84-year-old white homeowner in Missouri who shot a Black teenager in the head at his front door. Andrew Lester is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 20 on first-degree assault and armed criminal action charges in the shooting of Ralph Yarl, the AP reports. Yarl, 17, who suffered a traumatic brain injury, was among those who testified Thursday in the preliminary hearing. Lester's attorney argued that his client was frightened when a stranger knocked on his door and acted in self-defense. The district attorney acknowledged legal protections in cases of self-defense but said, "You do not have the right to shoot an unarmed kid through a door."

Apr 19, 2023 2:44 PM CDT

Ralph Yarl was shot at point-blank range in the head by a white homeowner but miraculously survived the bullet to his skull, the attorney for the family of the Black teenager says. As Yarl, 16, recovered at home, the 84-year-old owner of the Kansas City, Missouri, house where the teen mistakenly went to pick up his brothers pleaded not guilty in his first court appearance Wednesday, the AP reports. Andrew Lester was in court to answer charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action in the shooting. Lester turned himself in Tuesday and was later released on bond. He could face life in prison if convicted.

"Do you all understand that this 16-year-old boy was shot at point blank range in the face?" attorney Lee Merritt asked a crowd of about 150 supporters Tuesday at a downtown rally. "A bullet traveled from (Lester's) gun less than 5 feet into his upper temple, penetrated his skull, and they scraped bullet fragments off his frontal lobe on Thursday. On Saturday, he was home playing with his dog," Merritt said, per the AP. One sign at the rally read, "He is only 16." Another: "Is this what Kansas City has come to? Stop gun violence." The shooting happened about 10pm Thursday. Police Chief Stacey Graves said that Yarl's parents asked him to pick up his twin brothers at a home on 115th Terrace.

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Yarl, an honors student and all-state band member, mistakenly went to 115th Street—a block away from where he meant to be. When he rang the bell, Lester came to the door and used a .32 caliber Smith and Wesson 1888 revolver to shoot Yarl in the forehead, and then shot him again in the right forearm. Lester told police he lives alone and was "scared to death" when he saw a Black male on the porch and thought someone was trying to break in, according to the probable cause statement. But Merritt said Yarl is hardly an imposing figure. "The question is, at 5-8 and 140 pounds, what did Andrew Lester look out and see?" Merritt asked. "And the answer is he saw a Black person. And for him, that was enough justification."

(More Ralph Yarl stories.)

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