Man Charged With Shooting Ralph Yarl Pleads Not Guilty
The man charged in the shooting of Black teenager Ralph Yarl after he rang the wrong doorbell has pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault and armed criminal action.
Andrew Lester, the 84-year-old man accused of shooting Yarl twice, entered the plea in a Liberty, Missouri courtroom Wednesday, six days after the shooting occurred in Kansas City. Lester remains free after posting bail Tuesday; as part of his bail deal, Lester must also relinquish his weapons, have his cellphone monitored, and was ordered not to have any contact with the Yarl family.
Yarl, a 16-year-old honor student, was shot in the head and then shot one more time when he went to pick up his younger twin brothers at a friend’s house in Kansas City, Missouri, and accidentally rang the doorbell at the wrong address.
Despite being shot in the head at close range, Yarl survived the shooting and was released from the hospital Monday. Yarl’s attorney Lee Merritt said Wednesday that while Yarl suffered a traumatic brain injury, he’s expected to make a full recovery. Merritt added that if the gunshot was a fraction of an inch in either direction, Yarl would probably be dead, Fox 4 KC reported.
“Thursday night, doctors were scraping off bullet fragments off his brain. Saturday, he was released from the hospital,” Merritt told CNN on Tuesday night, hours after Yarl’s classmates staged a unity march demanding justice. “He has a prognosis of a full recovery, minus scarring and long term, maybe, CTE and Post Traumatic Brain Injury symptoms.”
Lester is scheduled to be back in court on June 1. “While charges have been filed, this remains an active investigation,” prosecutors said in a statement. “We are continuing to work with law enforcement to gather any and all evidence available in this case.”
Following the incident, Lester was questioned by police but not charged until four days after the shooting. “Nobody can tell us if the roles were reversed, and you had a Black man shoot a white, 16-year-old teenager for merely ringing his doorbell, that he would not be arrested,” lawyer Ben Crump, who also represents the Yarl family, told CNN. “I mean, this citizen went home and slept in his bed at night after shooting that young black kid in the head.”
Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said Sunday that in the vast majority of cases involving violent crime, the suspect is released within the first 24 hours of the investigation. Graves also told the press she recognized the “racial components” of the case.