Updated as of 9/20/2023 at 3:30 p.m. ET:
In a five-minute hearing, Andrew Lester, 84, entered a not guilty plea on the charges he’s facing in the shooting and injuring of a 16-year-old Black boy months ago, per CBS News.
Lester is facing first-degree assault and armed criminal action charges which could land him in prison for anywhere between three to 15 years if convicted. He’s been out on bond since the day after he was arrested back in April.
Lester’s attorney Steve Salmon asserts the defense’s argument that Lester acted in self-defense because he was scared to death of Yarl for his “age and size.” Upon the claim the shooting was racially motivated, Yarl’s supporters called for hate crime enhancements. However, the prosecutor’s office said what Lester is facing is even more serious than a bias crime punishment.
“Our office has charged the defendant in his case with an A felony, which is four classes higher than a hate crime enhancement could take a charge,” said Clay County spokesman Alexander K. Higginbotham via NBC.
What Happened in Lester’s Previous Hearing?
A Missouri judge ruled that there was enough evidence for Lester to stand trial in the shooting and injuring of a Black teen who mistakenly rang his doorbell. Lester faces two felony counts in connection to the shooting. However, his attorney insists his actions were justified.
“With his age and physical infirmity, he is unable to defend himself. A terrible event occurred, but it is not criminal,” said attorney Steve Salmon via AP. He and his client have been riding the self-defense argument since Lester got slammed with charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action.
Despite the defense’s claims, the 12 witnesses who testified at a preliminary hearing, Lester’s the 911 call, inconsistencies in Yarl’s interactions with the Kansas City Police and of course, Yarl’s own testimony convinced Clay County Judge Louis Angles to take this to trial.
Read more from AP News:
Yarl spoke softly as he testified that he was sent to pick up his twin siblings but had no phone — he’d lost it at school. The house he intended to go to was just blocks from his own home, but he had the street wrong. Yarl said he rang the bell and the wait for someone to answer for what seemed “longer than normal.”
As the inner door opened, Yarl said he reached out to grab the storm door. “I assume these are my brothers’ friends’ parents,” he said.
Instead, it was Lester, who told him, “Don’t come here ever again,” Yarl recalled. He said he was shot in the head, the impact knocking him to the ground, and was then shot in the arm.
Yarl’s pediatric neurosurgeon said the head injury the teen sustained left him with a bullet embedded in his skull that luckily, didn’t penetrate his brain. The report says despite his injury, Yarl was able to complete his engineering internship and begin his senior year of high school with many college visits planned during his first quarter.
“It makes me feel good because when it happened, I didn’t think it would get this far with the recovery,” said Paul, Yarl’s father, in the hearing.