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Crime News Black Lives Matter

84-Year-Old Man Accused of Shooting Black Teen Who Mistakenly Knocked on His Door Pleads Not Guilty

The teen, Ralph Yarl, made a full recovery after being shot in the head by retired aircraft mechanic Andrew Lester in Kansas City, Missouri. 

By Cydney Contreras

The 84-year-old man who shot Ralph Yarl in the head after the teenager mistakenly knocked on his door, has entered a not guilty plea to first-degree assault and armed criminal action in the April 13 shooting.

Andrew Lester appeared in court on Wednesday for a hearing, in which the judge also scheduled a trial date for October 7, 2024, according to the Associated Press. Lester waived his rights to have the charges read in court and is next due to appear for a December 17 docket call.

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Also present for the hearing was Yarl's mother, Cleo Nagbe, and a group of supporters, all of whom wore shirts that read "Ringing a doorbell is not a crime." They were told that their shirts were not allowed in the courtroom because of an order that forbid "outbreaks, signs, or displays of any kind," so they wore them inside-out for the proceedings, according to family friend Philip Barrolle. 

"It is up to us to have our presence felt," Barrolle shared.

A booking photo of Andrew Lester

At a previous hearing in the case, Yarl and 11 others testified to the events of April 13, with the teen sharing that he was picking up his twin siblings from a friend's home in the same neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri that Lester lived in, but had lost his phone at school and was unable to check the address. Instead, he mistakenly knocked on Lester's door, at which point he was confronted by the 84-year-old man, who said, "Don’t come here ever again."

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The teen was then shot once in the head, knocked to the ground by the impact, and then shot again, this time in the arm. "Before I know it I'm running away shouting, 'Help me, help me,'" according to a probably cause statement obtained by ABC News.

Yarl was taken to a hospital where he was treated for his injuries. While Yarl was able to complete an engineering internship over the summer and just started his senior year of high school, he said that he's still grappling with the trauma from the encounter. 

A photo of Ralph Yarl

Lester's attorney, Steven Salmon, argued that his client had attacked in self-defense when he was awoken by the teen that night. 

"Lester stated he opened the interior door, and saw a Black male approximately 6 feet tall pulling on the exterior storm door handle. He stated he believed someone was attempting to break into the house, and shot twice within a few seconds of opening the door," the probable cause statement read.

RELATED: Teenager Walks At Brain Injury Event Weeks After Getting Shot in Head for Knocking on Wrong Door

Salmon argued that Yarl opening the storm door justified the shooting, citing Missouri's "Stand Your Ground" laws. 

After hearing testimony from 12 witnesses, Clay County Judge Louis Angels concluded there was sufficient evidence to move forward with a felony trial. 

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