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'My life has bloomed': Ralph Yarl is striving for justice nearly 1 year since he was shot

Kansas City Teen Shot
Posted at 9:48 AM, Apr 11, 2024

Ralph Yarl says he has hope for justice.

Yarl was shot in the head on April 13, 2023 after he attempted to pick up his younger siblings from a home in the Northland, but walked up to the wrong address in error. It's a day that forever changed the then-16-year-old's life.

"As we approach the one-year milestone from that awful event, my life has bloomed in a way that I never could have envisioned," Yarl said in a statement obtained by KSHB 41 News.

The community rallied around Yarl as he recovered from the shooting and the teen's story captured national attention, prompting figures like Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and President Joe Biden to voice their support.

"I have so many thanks to the community for the love, well wishes and support sent my way, and to the Brain Injury Association of Greater Kansas City for selecting me as their Memorial Day Run honoree," Yarl said.

While Yarl recovered from the shooting, he told NBC News that he still feels the mental toll from the traumatic experience. His mother Cleo Nagbe said Yarl suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“If someone approaches me with kindness, of course, I’m going to be friendly with them,” he told NBC News. “There’s always a part of me that says that person could potentially be dangerous."

Yarl says he is only one teenager, and his "heart and mind" go out to the other shooting victims who are unheard.

"My hope is that justice will ultimately be served, and I’m encouraged by the increased priority on discourse about ending gun violence," the teen said.

Last summer, Yarl took the stand in a preliminary hearing against 85-year-old Andrew Lester, the man accused of shooting the Black teen. Lester who is free on a $200,000 bond, most recently appeared in court on Tuesday.

Lester is charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action in connection with the shooting.

Yarl is not only pushing for justice in his shooting, but for a cultural change to counter gun violence.

"Shooting as a first response to uncertainty or conflict should instead be resolved by using words, not weapons," the 17-year-old said.

Now, Yarl is living life to the fullest. He plans to study engineering this fall.

“I just feel like I got lucky, really,” he said.

You can view Yarl's full interview on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt Thursday at 5:30 p.m. CT.