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Ralph Yarl shooting: Andrew Lester pleads not guilty

The 84-year-old man accused of shooting Black teenager Ralph Yarl after the 16-year-old mistakenly rang his doorbell last week has pleaded not guilty to charges.

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Andrew Lester entered his plea during a court hearing Wednesday afternoon, KCUR and The Associated Press reported. He is facing first-degree assault and armed criminal action charges.

Authorities said Lester fired two shots at Yarl, one which hit him in his head and the other in his arm, after he rang Lester’s doorbell just before 10 p.m. on Thursday. In a criminal complaint filed earlier in court, authorities said Lester told investigators that he heard his doorbell as he was laying down to sleep. He claimed that he opened to door to see a stranger pulling on the handle of his locked storm door and fired at him twice. He said he was “scared to death” thinking the stranger was trying to get into his house.

Family members said Yarl, an all-state band member and honors student, was going to pick up his younger siblings when he confused Lester’s address on NE 115th Street for the address where his brothers were on NE 115th Terrace. Yarl told authorities that he never tried to pull on the door and that he was shot as soon as Lester answered with his gun drawn.

Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson said Monday that evidence showed Lester fired two shots through a glass door.

“The probable cause statement indicates that the victim in this case did not cross the threshold,” Thompson said. Later, he added, “As the prosecutor of Clay County, I can tell you there was a racial component to the case.”

The charges filed against Lester are felonies. If Lester is convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.