Man accused of shooting Ralph Yarl pleads not guilty
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Featured Image Credit: Clay County Sheriff’s Office/Facebook
The man accused of shooting teenager Ralph Yarl at point-blank range in the head pleaded not guilty during his first court appearance.
16-year-old Ralph, who is Black, was sent to pick up his younger twin brothers from 115th Terrace, but mistakenly went to 115th Street and rang the bell.
84-year-old Andrew D. Lester came to the door and shot the teenager once in the head and then in the arm.
The shooting happened at about 10pm local time on 13 April.
The retired aircraft mechanic turned himself in a few days later on 18 April and was later released on bail after agreeing to relinquish any weapons and have no contact with Ralph or his family.
Some civil rights leaders have urged prosecutors to charge Lester with a hate crime, as action lawyer Lee Merritt questioned if Ralph’s shooting 'because he was armed only with his Black skin'.
Merritt argued that Ralph is hardly an imposing figure, saying: “The question is, at 5ft 8in and 140 pounds, what did Andrew Lester look out and see?
“And the answer is he saw a Black person. And for him, that was enough justification. And that would just be a tragedy except law enforcement agreed with him.”
Lester recently presented himself in court to answer charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action in the shooting.
He could face life in prison on the assault charge if convicted.
President Joe Biden spoke with Ralph on Monday (17 April) and the next day, invited him to the White House.
“No parent should have to worry that their kid will be shot after ringing the wrong doorbell,” Mr Biden tweeted.
“We’ve got to keep up the fight against gun violence.”
However, Republican governor Mike Parson has accused the President of politicising it.
“I don’t want some 16-year-old kid to be getting shot because he went to the wrong house – we just don’t want those kinds of things to happen. It’s a tragedy,” Mr Parson told the Kansas City Star.
“When the president of the United States is trying to make a political statement over a very serious tragedy, it is very unfortunate.”
The GoFundMe which was set up by Ralph's family recently reached over $2.5 million in donations, which will go towards the boy's medical bills and therapy.
Excess funds will be put towards Ralph's college fund and paying for him to take a trip to West Africa.
According to the page, the 16-year-old is wanting to attend Texas A&M to study chemical engineering and has a love of music, being adept with several instruments.