On Monday, 17-year-old Ralph Yarl made his first public appearance since he was shot in the head after mistakenly going to the wrong house to pick up his younger siblings.
Yarl was joined by his family for the “Going The Distance For Brain Injury Run”event in Kansas City, which included a 10K, 5K, 1.5-mile walk, and a kid’s event, local NBC affiliate KSHB reports. The high school student suffered a traumatic brain injury due to the shooting, which took place in April.
This race, which is in its 36th year, raises money for the nonprofit Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City (BIAKS). BIAKS provides resources to people with brain injuries.
While Yarl did not speak during the event, his mother, Cleo Nagbe, shared an update on the progress of his recovery before the event began.
“When you get a traumatic brain injury, everybody expects you to look one way, feel one way, or act one way, but it’s not that way,” she said. “And everybody’s asking me have you gone back to work yet? Has Ralph gone back to school yet? That’s not the case. A brain injury is a process; it’s not an event. It takes time.”
“Let’s raise more awareness to stop the things that cause brain injuries and should not be causing it, especially gun violence,” Nagbe added.
Yarl’s aunt, Faith Spoonmore, who also attended the event, told ABC News that the shooting on April 13 has greatly impacted her nephew physically and emotionally.
“It makes it very real. You know, it’s one thing when you see it on the news, and you hear about it when it comes into your house,” she said.
Spoonmore said that Yarl, who was shot in the neighborhood where he resided, has been living with her and her family as he is not yet ready to return home.
“Ralph is currently living with me. He’s been with me since the event. He is not comfortable going back to that area,” she said. “He is not comfortable going back to his house, his home … which is so unfortunate because he had a lot of great memories in that home.”
According to Spoonmore, Yarl has been experiencing debilitating migraines and some issues with balance since the shooting. His aunt he is also battling with his emotions, mood swings, and the trauma of the shooting, which causes him to want to isolate.
“Now you see him, and he’s by himself,” Spoonmore told the Kansas City Star. “But he’s not doing the things that he loves to do, and it’s like he’s a shell. And that’s the problem, is that there is something that is missing within him.”
Yarl was 16 years old at the time of the shooting on April 13. Despite his serious injuries, he celebrated his 17th birthday earlier this month.
Andrew Lester, the 84-year-old white man who allegedly shot Yarl was charged with one count of felony assault in the first degree and one count of armed criminal action, which is also a felony, ABC News reports.
Lester entered a not-guilty plea and was released on a $200,000 bond on April 18. His next court date is June 1.