Months after shooting, Ralph Yarl's mother says teen 'has to look over his shoulder'
Yarl, who was shot in early April, is recovering from his physical injuries. His mother says his mental recovery has been tough.
It’s been nearly two months since Ralph Yarl, a 17-year-old Black Kansas City teen, was shot after ringing the wrong doorbell while trying to pick up his siblings in the Northland.
On Memorial Day, Yarl walked with hundreds of people to raise awareness for brain injuries.
Yarl’s mother, Cleo Nagbe, said her son is physically recovering from his injuries, but the mental recovery has been tough.
“He cannot practice music for endless hours because it exacerbates his headaches,” Nagbe said. “Those are the restrictions that he's having to deal with that frustrate him a lot. And then that exacerbates the mental frustrations that he has to deal with.”
Yarl’s shooting in April sparked nationwide attention and public outcry. Many local activists and leaders also criticized the Kansas City Police Department for delaying Lester’s arrest, and the Clay County prosecutor for not filing charges against Lester until four days after the shooting.
Alleged shooter Andrew Lester, 84, wascharged with assault in the first degree and armed criminal action. He is now out on bail.
Lee Merritt, an attorney for the family, said public attention on the case is important.
“It's the responsibility of the public to ensure that the family is afforded procedural justice, that the case is treated like any other very serious gun violence case and that we come up with policies and procedures to ensure that this kind of thing doesn't happen to any other child,” Merritt said.
Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson said recently he has received death threats over the Yarl case. Nagbe denounced the violence directed toward Thompson and her own family.
“This problem started with violence in the first place. Violence and ignorance, ignorance of what other people are and what other people are about,” Nagbe said. “This case needs to be solved in a court of law in the right and fair way. Trying to threaten someone and trying to harm someone is not going to solve the problem.”
But Merritt said the family has grown disillusioned with Thompson’s handling of the case.
A judge decided to seal the case last week — making evidence and other materials unavailable to the public — in response to a protective order filed by Lester’s attorney. The judge said the high-profile nature of the case cast Lester in “a negative light.”
Yarl’s family asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate potential hate crime changes in the case. Merritt said the DOJ received the request and will follow Missouri’s judicial process. Merritt added the family is also looking into private civil claims against Lester.
Nagbe said Yarl is suffering the consequences of being a Black kid in America.
“Now, Ralph has to look over his shoulder everywhere he goes,” she said. “Ralph has a scar on the top left hand side of his head that everybody recognizes him wherever he goes as the kid who was shot.”
At just 17 years old, she said he can no longer live a normal life.
“The judge is concerned about Andrew Lester's health and blah, blah, blah," she said. "And this kid is like, ‘Can I please have a normal senior year? Can I please graduate like maybe a normal person? Can I have just some normalcy in this life?’”