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An 84-year-old Kansas City homeowner pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the shooting of a Black high school student who had mistakenly approached his home.

Andrew Lester, a retired aircraft mechanic, is accused of first-degree assault and armed criminal action following the April 13 incident involving Ralph Yarl, a high school student who had mistakenly arrived at Lester’s residence while attempting to pick up his siblings.

During Wednesday’s brief hearing, lasting a mere five minutes, Lester’s lawyer, Steve Salmon, entered a not-guilty plea, articulating that his client had acted in self-defense on the night of the shooting. This marks Lester’s initial court appearance since the presiding judge determined that there was ample evidence to take the matter to trial.

The Victims side:
Detailing the night’s events, Yarl explained that he was retrieving his twin siblings but had mistakenly arrived at the wrong address due to a mix-up with the streets. His phone, which he had misplaced at school, was unavailable to guide him. After ringing Lester’s doorbell and experiencing an extended wait, Yarl attempted to open the door when the main door opened, mistakenly believing his brother’s friend’s parents were on the other side. Instead, he was met by Lester, who warned, “Don’t come here ever again,” before Yarl was shot twice.

Some of the courtroom audience displayed their support for Yarl, wearing T-shirts with the slogan “Ringing a doorbell is not a crime” discreetly turned inside out. This wardrobe adjustment came after a recent court order prohibited any “outbreaks, signs, or displays of any kind.” Addressing this, family friend Philip Barrolle voiced frustration, emphasizing the importance of their presence, saying, “It is up to us to have our presence felt.”


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