Ralph Yarl, teen shot after mistakenly going to the wrong house, reflects on healing journey in 'GMA' exclusive

Yarl suffered a traumatic brain injury after he was shot in the head in April.

ByJanai Norman, Deena Zaru, and Sabina Ghebremedhin via logo
August 20, 2023, 5:04 AM

Ralph Yarl, the Kansas City teenager who was shot after mistakenly going to the wrong house to pick up his siblings, opened up about his healing journey as he prepares to begin his senior year of high school in an exclusive interview with GMA’s Janai Norman.

“Whenever I just think of the details. I was crying about it. Because it just seems so surreal that people would be so harmful and hateful,” Yarl told Norman in an interview that aired on Sunday morning.

The 17-year-old said that therapy has been helping him cope with the traumatic experience.

“The therapist I've been going to has just been trying so many things to like – to lessen the trauma and … get myself back to normal,” he said.

Yarl was shot in the head and in the right arm on the evening of April 13 by Andrew Lester – a homeowner in Kansas City, Missouri, according to police. The teenager, who celebrated his 17th birthday in May, suffered a traumatic brain injury, his family previously told ABC News.

PHOTO: Ralph Yarl, a Black 16-year-old who was shot and wounded by a homeowner after mistakenly going to the wrong house to pick up his siblings, holds a bass clarinet in this picture obtained from social media.
Ralph Yarl, a Black 16-year-old who was shot and wounded by a homeowner after mistakenly going to the wrong house to pick up his siblings, holds a bass clarinet in this picture obtained from social media.
Lee Merritt via Reuters

His mother, Cleo Nagbe, told “GMA” that the trauma has been shared by the entire family.

“Ralph was the one at the center of this, but it's the whole family thing. We are all carrying this,” she said, adding that Yarl’s 11-year-old twin brothers worry about him when he’s not home.

“They have that little separation anxiety when he's not around and it’s after dark,” she said.

Lester, 84, was charged with one count of felony assault in the first degree and one count of armed criminal action, also a felony, Clay County prosecuting attorney Zachary Thompson said during a press conference on April 17.

Lester pleaded not guilty and was released on April 18 on a $200,000 bond. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 31 after a judge agreed to partially seal the evidence in the case in response to a protective order filed by Lester's attorney, Steven Salmon.

"In this case, the court entered an order prohibiting the dissemination of information from the discovery by both the prosecution and defense," Salmon told ABC News in a statement on June 26. "As a party to the criminal case, any statement from Mr. Lester would certainly violate that order. I can say Mr. Lester is looking forward to the upcoming preliminary hearing."

ABC News reached out to Salmon for further comment ahead of the hearing on Aug. 31.

Yarl previously opened up about the harrowing experience in a June 27 interview with “GMA,” and said that he was shot in the head through a glass door by a homeowner after he mistakenly arrived at the wrong address to pick up his twin brothers from a friend’s house.

“He points [the gun] at me … so I kinda, like, brace and I turn my head,” Yarl told Roberts. “Then it happened. And then I'm on the ground. And then he shoots again. And then I fall on the glass. The shattered glass. And then before I know it I'm running away shouting, ‘Help me, help me.’”

According to a probable cause statement obtained by ABC News, Lester told police that he "believed someone was attempting to break into the house" and grabbed a gun before going to the door because he was scared.

Lester, who is white, claimed that he saw a "Black male approximately 6 feet tall" pulling on the door handle and "shot twice within a few seconds of opening the door." He said that the Black male ran away and he immediately called 911.

According to the probable cause statement, Yarl told police that he rang the doorbell and said that he didn’t pull on the door knob.

Nagbe told “GMA” that she’s talking to Yarl’s twin brothers and explaining to them that what happened wasn’t their fault.

“We're working on the feeling that they shouldn't carry any guilt because he went and picked them up from a playdate when all of this happened,” she said. “So trying to make them understand that it's still okay to go on playdates.”

Yarl, who was shot in the neighborhood where he lived, initially didn’t return home and lived with his aunt Faith Spoonmore until the family moved to a new home earlier this summer.

Spoonmore told “GMA” that the family is now committed to helping other victims of gun violence by selling bracelets through Hope by Faith Spoonmore – a nonprofit that donates 33 percent of its proceeds to impacted families.

“Hope literally is a lifeline,” Spoonmore said.

“This kid is not broken by much,” she said of her nephew. “He has strength that I want to have. He has strength that I hope my boys see.”

Yarl said that therapy has helped him look at the incident “from a higher viewpoint.”

“The people who are more good, who are supportive, they vastly outnumber all those – all the hateful,” he said. “... And I'm just leaning on my support to be sure that I stay strong.”

ABC News' Kandis Mascall and Nicholas Massenburg Abraham contributed to this report.