KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There was no way, Ralph Yarl thought, that the white man pointing the gun at him through the glass door would shoot him. But the Black teenager, who had gone to the wrong house in Kansas City looking for his younger brothers, was wrong a second time.
Yarl’s brothers were actually at a home a block away, and he said in an interview with “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts that aired Tuesday that he hadn’t met the family of his brothers’ friends, “so maybe it was their house.”
After ringing the doorbell, he said, he waited a long time on the porch before the door opened.
“I see this old man and I’m saying, ‘Oh, this must be like, their grandpa,'” said Yarl, now 17. “And then he pulls out his gun. And I’m like, ‘Whoa!’ So I like, back up. He points it at me.”
Yarl braced and turned his head.
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“And then it happened, and then I’m on the ground. I fall on the glass, the shattered glass,” he told Roberts, and “then before I know it, I’m running away, shouting, ‘Help me! Help me!'”
Yarl was bleeding and said he wondered how it was possible that he had been shot in the head. The man he had never met before said only five words to him, he said: “Don’t come here ever again.”
Andrew Lester, 84, pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault and armed criminal action in the April 13 shooting.
Lester admitted that he shot Yarl through the door without warning because he was “scared to death” he was about to be robbed by the Black person standing at his door. He remains free after posting $20,000 — 10% of his $200,000 bond.
The shooting drew international attention amid claims that Lester received preferential treatment from investigators after he shot Yarl. President Joe Biden and several celebrities issued statements calling for justice. Yarl’s attorney, Lee Merritt, has called for the shooting to be investigated as a hate crime.
Yarl’s mother, Cleo Nagbe, said on “Good Morning America” that she had been worried that her son got a flat tire, but that she then got a call from police telling her about the shooting, and she headed to the hospital. He was partially alert, but it was traumatizing, she said.
Ten weeks later, Yarl is physically recovered but said that he has headaches and trouble sleeping and that sometimes his mind is just foggy.
“You’re looking at a kid that took the SAT when he was in eighth grade — and now his brain is slowed,” Nagbe told Roberts. “So physically he looks fine. But there’s a lot that has been taken from him.”
Yarl said he is seeing a therapist and hopes to continue his recovery by focusing on his passions for chemical engineering and for music.
“I’m just a kid and not larger than life because this happened to me,” Yarl said. “I’m just going to keep doing all the stuff that makes me happy. And just living my life the best I can, and not let this bother me.”
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