One Year After Being Shot, Ralph Yarl Calls Recovery “A Constant Uphill Battle” But Remains Hopeful Justice Will Be Served

It’s been one year since Missouri teenager Ralph Yarl was shot when he mistakenly rang the wrong doorbell of a Kansas City home.

The 17-year-old was shot in the head on April 13 last year when he went to a home to pick up his younger twin brothers. He went to the wrong address by mistake and rang the doorbell.

Within a few seconds of seeing him on his doorstep, court records say the homeowner, Andrew D. Lester, then 84, opened fire, shooting him twice. Lester called the police and told them he feared for his safety when he answered the door and saw Yarl.

The shooting severely injured Yarl. He sustained a traumatic brain injury and had to undergo months of recovery to overcome the emotional and mental trauma of the shooting.

The teen spoke out about the event that changed his life and what he has been going through over the last year.

“It’s definitely a bumpy journey,” Yarl told NBC News. “Whenever there’s something that goes on that reminds me of what happened I…I just have, like, such a negative wave of emotions, like anger, like disgust. It’s always a mix of good and bad days. And I feel like the good days are when I’m able to be around people that help me build myself up.”

According to his family, Yarl, who sustained a traumatic brain injury after being shot in the forehead, has struggled to cope with what happened to him. “Ralph minimized it as if nothing happened,” his mother, Cleo Nagbe, told NBC News. “But the thing with trauma is that the body will process it when it’s ready. I knew it was coming.”

“At times, he wants to disappear,” she said.

The college-bound student described his recovery as a “constant uphill battle,” leading him not to attend his senior prom from fear that his peers would ask about the shooting. He said that he sometimes avoids phone calls and texts and has difficulty “synthesizing complex information.”

He also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. “If someone approaches me with kindness, of course, I’m going to be friendly with them,” he said, but still, he noted that “there’s always a part of me that says that person could potentially” be a threat.

Next fall, Yarl plans to enroll in college and study  engineering. “I just feel like I got lucky, really,” he said about his survival. 

“I’m one teenager hurt by a shooting, and my heart and mind goes out to so many others shot and unheard,” Yarl told The Kansas City Star. “My hope is that justice will ultimately be served, and I’m encouraged by the increased priority on discourse about ending gun violence. Shooting as a first response to uncertainty or conflict should instead be resolved by using words, not weapons,” he added. 

Andrew Lester is expected to appear before a judge on September 6.  His trial is scheduled to begin on October 7.

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