A white, 84-year-old Missouri homeowner who allegedly shot a Black teenager on his doorstep after the boy mistakenly rang the wrong doorbell will face trial.
A Clay County judge on Thursday ordered a trial to proceed against Andrew D. Lester following the April shooting, which critically injured 16-year-old Ralph Yarl. He was charged with first-degree felony assault and felony armed criminal action, according to court filings obtained by Oxygen.com.
On April 13, Yarl was allegedly shot in the forehead and the arm by Lester after the teen approached the man's Kansas City home, which Yarl said he did accidentally while attempting to pick up his twin brothers at another home. Following the shooting, Lester was initially freed on a $20,000 bond, per separate court records.
Since the spring shooting, the Missouri honor student and all-state band member has staged a recovery.
During pre-trial proceedings, prosecutors had argued there was a “racial component” to the brazen shooting.
Photo: Ben Crump Law
"In Clay County, justice happens inside the courtroom," Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson said to reporters after a county judge ordered a trial on Thursday.
At last week’s court hearing, Yarl testified before a judge regarding the incident.
“[I’m] better than, say, four months ago,” Yarl said in court when a prosecutor asked about his current condition.
He went on to recount the shooting in detail on the witness stand, telling the courtroom that he’d rang the doorbell multiple times and didn’t get an immediate response from inside the home. Yarl said Lester later appeared in the doorway and said to him, “Don’t ever come here again,” according to the case’s probable cause affidavit.
Yarl recalled being shot in the head as soon as he removed his hands from the elderly man’s storm door. The 16-year-old then said he collapsed on the ground before Lester shot him a second time in the arm. He denied “violently” yanking on the door or ever opening it. He stated he did, however, touch Lester’s door, which was inconsistent with what he previously told law enforcement.
“It’s important for the judge, when they’re making a determination on probable cause, to hear the evidence. Part of the evidence was Ralph’s testimony," Thompson said, according to NBC News. “Any time someone has to talk about a traumatic experience, it's not easy. So we respect all those who undergo that decision and make that decision to testify."
Photo: Kansas City Police Department via AP
Missouri is one of more than two dozen states that abide by “Stand Your Ground” laws, which permit deadly force in cases of self-defense. However, prosecutors quickly determined there was allegedly no apparent element of self-defense on Lester’s part.
Lester's defense attorney, Steven Salmon, said this week he'd been expecting the case to proceed to trial.
"I don't think it's a huge surprise that the judge found that there was probable cause based on the evidence that was there," Lester told Oxygen.com on Tuesday afternoon. "Once it goes to trial, this will be an issue of having to prove that Mr. Lester assaulted Mr. Yarl beyond reasonable doubt.”
Salmon, who was adamant his client acted in self-defense, denied the shooting was racially motivated.
Lester faces life in prison if convicted on the assault charge. The armed criminal action charge carries an added three to 15 years behind bars if Lester is found guilty. He’s scheduled to be arraigned on September 20.