A judge in the United States has ruled that an 84-year-old white homeowner who shot and seriously injured a Black teenager after he mistakenly went to the man’s house must stand trial.
Missouri’s Clay County Judge Louis Angles issued the ruling on Thursday after hearing from several witnesses at a preliminary hearing, including Ralph Yarl, the teenager who was shot by Andrew Lester on April 13 when he had gone to the wrong house to pick up his younger brothers.
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Lester, a retired aircraft mechanic, is charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action.
He previously pleaded not guilty in the shooting that shocked the US and renewed national debates on gun policies and race. His next court date is an arraignment, scheduled for September 20.
Lester’s lawyer, Steve Salmon, said in closing arguments that Lester was acting in self-defence, terrified by the stranger who knocked on his door as he settled into bed for the night.
“With his age and physical infirmity, he is unable to defend himself,” Salmon said, describing Lester as distraught after the shooting.
“A terrible event occurred, but it is not criminal,” Salmon said.
District Attorney Zachary Thompson said that although Missouri law offers protections for people defending themselves, “you do not have the right to shoot an unarmed kid through a door”.
A handful of people wearing shirts that said “Justice for Ralph” were in the courtroom. Others wore shirts that read: “Ringing a doorbell is not a crime.”
Yarl, 17, who is still healing from the traumatic brain injury he suffered in the shooting, was supposed to pick up his younger brothers but went to the wrong block and mistakenly ended up at Lester’s house.
Lester told authorities that he shot Yarl through the door without warning because he was “scared to death” that he was about to be robbed.
No words were exchanged before the shooting, but as Yarl got up to run, he heard Lester yell, “Don’t come around here,” the probable cause statement said.
Lester also called 911. On the recording played in court, he could be heard telling a dispatcher, “I shot him. He was at my door trying to get in, and I shot him.”
Kansas City officer Larry Dunaway described Lester as “an elderly guy who was scared” after the shooting. Another officer, James Gale, said Lester was clearly worried.
“He said he hoped he didn’t kill anybody,” Gale testified.