Teen can withdraw plea in retired police sergeant’s killing

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A judge has ruled that a teenager can withdraw his guilty plea in the shooting death of a retired St. Louis police sergeant.

Monday’s decision means that Jalynn Garner, 17, can change his plea to not guilty and move forward with a trial, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Garner faces multiple charges including first-degree murder in the robbery and shooting of Sgt. Ralph Harper in the October 2018.

His attorneys said the teen, who was 16 at the time of the shooting, was under pressure to meet a deadline to be eligible for a juvenile rehabilitation program when he entered the guilty plea. But Garner later was told he wasn’t eligible for the program. That meant he faced a sentence of life with parole, or 30 to 40 years.

Harper was getting ready to babysit for relatives when Garner and his friend Justin Mathews, then 15, encountered Harper as he was parking. During a robbery attempt, Garner and Harper shot at and hit each other, with Garner sustaining a wrist wound, authorities said. Harper, who had retired from the police department in 2007, was killed.

Officials said Mathews was the driver and gave Garner a gun. Both teens were certified to stand trial as adults.

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