KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An 84-year-old man charged in the shooting of 16-year-old Ralph Yarl appeared in court Wednesday.
Andrew Lester was charged Monday with first-degree assault and armed criminal action in Clay County. He surrendered on Tuesday at the county jail; later that day, Lester posted bond and was released from custody.
The 84-year-old entered court Wednesday with a cane, and his attorney pleaded not guilty on his behalf. His next court appearance is set for June 1.
Yarl’s attorney Lee Merritt isn’t happy with the plea though.
“I think this may have been an opportunity to make it easier on the family to enter a plea of guilty,” he said.
As part of his bond conditions, he will not be allowed to possess any weapons, cannot leave the state without permission, and cannot have contact with Yarl or his family.
“It’s frustrating for the family that he is out on bond,” Merritt said. “We were hoping that maybe the judge would revoke the bond. We want this process to go as quickly as possible.”
Lester is accused of shooting the 16-year-old last week after the teen accidentally went to the wrong house to pick up his siblings.
Kansas City police said just before 10 p.m. April 13, Yarl was picking up his younger siblings at a home on N.E. 115th Terrace when he mistakenly went to a house on N.E. 115th Street.
When he arrived at the home and rang the doorbell, Lester shot Yarl, court documents say. Prosecutors say Lester fired through a glass door, and Yarl did not enter the home.
Records say Lester shot the teen twice, once on the top of his left eye and a second time in his upper right arm.
According to court documents, Yarl said Lester told him, “Don’t come around here” after the shooting.
“As the prosecutor of Clay County, I can tell you there was a racial component,” Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson said Monday.
“The issue here is he saw his blackness as a threat, and that mindset is dangerous,” Merritt said.
Local activists and protesters called for hate crime charges on Tuesday. Yarl’s family attorney agrees.
“We’re looking forward to a federal review of this case and federal charges as well,” Merritt said.
The night of the shooting, Lester was taken into police custody for questioning and then released. Police said the investigation called for more work than they could complete during the 24-hour holding period.
Yarl’s family and attorney believe the case moved so quickly only because of the national outcry.
“In those 24 hours, they were able to get a witness statement,” attorney Lee Merritt told FOX4 on Tuesday.
“They had more than enough probable cause to make an arrest, and it’s a pretext that they’re standing behind because they embarrassed because for their lack of action, and they had to be shamed into action.”
Yarl’s family said the 16-year-old was released from the hospital Monday. Yarl’s mother, Cleo Nagbe, said he’s only home because of the medical experts in their family who are supporting him.
Nagbe said one of the bullets remained in Ralph’s temple for 12 hours before it could be removed.
Merritt said Wednesday that Yarl suffered a traumatic brain injury, but he’s expected to make a full recovery. The attorney noted that if the bullet hit Yarl’s head a fraction of an inch in any other direction, he would probably be dead right now.
“I was blown away to be able to sit with Ralph and talk about music and talk about how this experience has been for him – to speak with him at all,” Merritt said. “He is a walking, literally walking, talking miracle.”