HGTV’s Tarek El Moussa recalls being arrested as a teen for attempted murder: ‘I was lucky to be alive’

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“Flip or Flop” star Tarek El Moussa is opening up more and more about his troubled past.

In a new interview with People ahead of the release of his book, “Flip Your Life: How to Find Opportunity in Distress—in Real Estate, Business, and Life,” El Moussa revealed an especially dark chapter of his life.

“It’s part of my story,” he told the outlet. “We’re all a product of our environment, and I grew up in that environment. In order to thrive in that environment, you have to do certain things.”

As a teen, El Moussa was involved in a gang fight that resulted in an arrest, a charge for attempted murder and ultimately a short stay in a juvenile detention center.

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Tarek El Moussa smiling

Tarek El Moussa opened up about sharing an excerpt from his book, “Flip Your Life: How to Find Opportunity in Distress—in Real Estate, Business, and Life,” saying “it’s part of my story.” ( Presley Ann/Getty Images for MTV)

In an excerpt from the book shared with People, El Moussa recalled how he became involved in the incident.

The California-born TV personality shared that at the end of his sophomore year his “parents’ worst fears were realized. I was barely making Cs in school, and I had a terrible attitude.”

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He had intended to go to his girlfriend’s high school graduation, but that same day, a friend who had been dumped by a girl asked him to come to a park to fight a rival group.

El Moussa and his group were attacked by the rivals with baseball bats and crowbars, he said. He recalled being hit by a bat, writing, “I tried to jump out of the way, but the bat connected, hard — hard enough to break my ribs. As a reaction, I dropped my arm and knocked the bat out of his hands. I grabbed the bat and hit him in the head. He dropped to the pavement and went unconscious.”

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Close up of Tarek El Moussa

El Moussa wrote about being involved in a fight that resulted in him being hit with a bat and turning that bat on his assailant.  (Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)

He continued, “When I looked up, the park was a mess, all I could hear were police sirens in the distance, and all of my friends had left. There were bodies everywhere. But then, across the park, I saw that a ‘second wave’ was gathering. And these weren’t teenage boys; these were the older brothers of the guys we had just fought with. Some were obviously in their thirties. And they were running at me with crowbars. I was seventeen, and in that moment, I was all alone. That’s when the police pulled up and saved my life.

“I can’t say for sure what happened next, but I must have blacked out. When I came to, I was sitting in the back of a police car, in handcuffs, charged with assault and battery, aggravated assault, attempted murder, and assault with a deadly weapon. Today I’m convinced that the police arrived at exactly the right moment. If I hadn’t been arrested, I would have been killed.”

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El Moussa wrote that he spent a couple nights in jail, “terrified. The charges against me were very serious, and I didn’t know if I was going to be there for a day, a week, or years.”

Eventually, his parents got ahold of an attorney for their son, and “After some investigation, the prosecutors figured out that I had used the other guy’s bat in self-defense, during mutual combat. It helped that I had a clean record. They dropped the charges and sent me home, but I was on house arrest for about a week. I was still in pain, and it took a few weeks for my ribs to heal, but I knew I was lucky to be alive.”

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Tarek El Moussa with Heather Rae Young

El Moussa and wife Heather Rae El Moussa in 2022. In his book, El Moussa stated he was “lucky to be alive” after his arrest for attempted murder. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

The now 42-year-old also revealed that following the fight, he met with a psychiatrist who put him on Dexedrine, a drug that can reduce impulsivity.

“This was the first time I’d been medicated for my ADHD, and the change I experienced was incredible. It was as if everything suddenly slowed down,” he said of the experience.

However, he felt “something was off” and “hated” taking the medication at the time. He continued, saying “it took a while to get the dosage right, and the medication hasn’t ‘cured’ my ADHD, by any means, but I’m deeply grateful for it.”

In his interview with People about the excerpt, El Moussa said he’d been in other dangerous situations, but “That one had the most extreme consequences for me, but that was not the most extreme. I’ve been in shootings, I’ve been in knife fights, I’ve been hit in the face with a bat. You name it, I’ve had it.”

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Close up of Tarek El Moussa smiling

El Moussa said he wanted to share his story to show “you can literally be a gang banger right now, robbing people, and you can flip your life. Anybody can change. They just have to want to.” (Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Discovery Channel)

He continued, “That’s why I shared what I shared. [To show] you can literally be a gang banger right now, robbing people, and you can flip your life. Anybody can change. They just have to want to.”

“Flip Your Life: How to Find Opportunity in Distress—in Real Estate, Business, and Life,” is available February 6.

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