Trial Date Set for Homeowner Accused in Shooting of Black Teenager


Kansas City -Lester, an 84-year-old retired aircraft mechanic facing charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action in the shooting of Ralph Yarl, a Black teenager who mistakenly approached his Kansas City home, entered a not guilty plea during a brief court appearance on Wednesday. The trial has been scheduled to commence on October 7, 2024. 

The incident, which occurred on April 13, stirred national debates concerning gun policies and racial dynamics in America. Yarl's supporters, including his mother, were present in the courtroom, donning T-shirts reading "Ringing a doorbell is not a crime," though turned inside out due to court directives issued earlier this week prohibiting certain displays.

Philip Barrolle, a family friend, emphasized the importance of their presence, stating, "It is up to us to have our presence felt."

Lester, who had previously entered a not guilty plea soon after being charged, appeared in court after a judge determined there was sufficient evidence to proceed to trial. He has been out on bond since April 19, a day after his arrest.

The assault charge carries a potential life sentence, while the charge of armed criminal action carries a prison term ranging from three to fifteen years. Despite calls for a hate crime charge, Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson stated in April that the first-degree assault charge holds a more severe penalty.

Lester's attorney, Steve Salmon, argued at the preliminary hearing that Lester acted in self-defense, fearing the stranger at his door late at night.

Yarl testified that he had been sent to collect his twin siblings but had lost his phone at school, leading him to the wrong address. As he approached Lester's door and rang the bell, he recounted a longer-than-usual wait for a response. When the inner door opened, Yarl extended his hand to the storm door, assuming it was his brother's friend's parents. To his surprise, it was Lester, who warned him never to return before firing the shots.

Yarl sustained a head injury from one of the bullets, with the projectile becoming embedded in his skull. Thankfully, it did not penetrate his brain, allowing him to return to school. An accomplished honors student and all-state band member, Yarl is now a senior preparing to pursue engineering in college.