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Kansas City teenager Ralph Yarl recounts being shot after he rang the wrong doorbell

by Sophia Chen
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Wrong doorbell shooting

Kansas City teenager Ralph Yarl shares his harrowing experience of being shot after mistakenly ringing the wrong doorbell. As a Black teenager searching for his younger brothers in Kansas City, Yarl found himself facing a white man who brandished a gun at him through a glass door. Naively believing he wouldn’t be shot, Yarl soon realized his assumption was terribly wrong.

Unbeknownst to Yarl, his brothers were actually located in a home one block away. In an interview with “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, Yarl explained that he hadn’t met his brothers’ friends’ family, leading to the mistaken address. After ringing the doorbell, he patiently waited on the porch, unaware of the danger that awaited him behind the door.

“I saw this elderly man, and I thought he must be their grandfather,” recounted the now 17-year-old Yarl. “But then he pulled out a gun, and I was taken aback. I quickly stepped back as he pointed the gun at me.”

Bracing himself, Yarl turned his head away.

“In an instant, it happened—I found myself on the ground amidst shattered glass,” he shared with Roberts. “Before I knew it, I was running away, shouting for help.”

Yarl, bleeding and in disbelief, questioned how it was possible that he had been shot in the head. The unfamiliar man only uttered five words to him: “Don’t come here ever again.”

Andrew Lester, an 84-year-old man, pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action related to the April 13 shooting. Lester confessed to shooting Yarl without warning through the door, claiming he was “scared to death” of a potential robbery by the young Black individual. He remains free after posting a $20,000 bond, which amounts to 10% of the total $200,000 bond.

The incident garnered international attention, with allegations of preferential treatment toward Lester during the investigation. President Joe Biden and several celebrities issued statements demanding justice. Yarl’s attorney, Lee Merritt, called for the shooting to be investigated as a hate crime.

Yarl’s mother, Cleo Nagbe, expressed her initial concern about her son’s flat tire but soon received a call from the police informing her of the shooting. She hurried to the hospital where Yarl was partially conscious but traumatized. While Yarl has physically recovered in the ten weeks since the incident, he continues to experience headaches, sleep difficulties, and mental fog.

“You’re looking at a kid who took the SAT in eighth grade, and now his brain is slowed,” Nagbe shared with Roberts. “Physically, he appears fine, but so much has been taken away from him.”

Yarl currently seeks support from a therapist and aims to focus on his passions for chemical engineering and music to aid his ongoing recovery.

“I’m just a regular kid; this incident doesn’t define me,” Yarl affirmed. “I’ll keep pursuing the things that bring me joy, living my life to the fullest, and not allowing this to affect me.”

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