Paul Yarl says the past week has been an "emotional roller coaster" filled with prayer, shock, disappointment and gratitude, mentioning the outpouring of support from across the nation has been a great source of strength for the family.
“As shocking as it was to hear that Ralph was shot, it’s also shocking to see all the support coming toward Ralph and the family, all the prayers. Yes, we are grateful,” Paul Yarl said.
He recalls finding out about the shooting through a text message from the teen’s mother. Paul had never received a text like that from her before, so he instantly knew something was not right.
“'There’s an emergency. Call back if you have a minute.' That’s what the text said,” Paul recalled.
In the days following the news, he learned more about what happened to his son. And as more details were released, he says he became increasingly more upset.
Paul Yarl describes his son as an exceptional kid — always one of the brightest in his classes, loved by his teachers, athletic, artistic and an avid church-goer.
“I was confident that, matter of fact, that he would not provoke the shooter," he said. "So when I started hearing the details about the shooter shooting Ralph, not once but multiple times, including trying to finish off Ralph, I was angry. Who would want to harm Ralph?”
The father says while gun violence is a common occurrence on television news, he never thought such tragedy would ever affect his three boys, always feeling confident “trouble would never come their way.”
“Ralph continues to improve every single day. We try to be careful with his … emotions. So we want to reduce the number of engagement from even family,” Paul Yarl said. “The mom, it’s her instinct to be protective. She doesn’t want Ralph to relive that moment because it's still fresh and it was traumatic. And she’s not ready to let all the people have him tell his story. It’s gonna come, but it hasn’t been told yet.”
When Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson announced two felony charges had been filed against 84-year-old Andrew Lester, who shot Ralph, Paul Yarl says he felt relieved.
“I’m happy that charges were filed (April 17) because, for some time, there were no charges. The shooter was out on the streets, and it didn’t sit well with me,” he said. "It’s gonna go to the court, the jury will listen to the case and there’s gonna be a verdict. I can’t wait for that."
Ultimately, Paul Yarl hopes Lester will listen to the voices of the community and the Yarl family to decide to plead guilty. He also hopes his son will receive an apology.
“Whatever he (Ralph) chooses to do, he’s gonna be one of the best, and ultimately it’s going to erase some of that news out there about the shooting," Paul Yarl said. "He’s gonna do good. And those stories will overcome the shooting — I believe so."