Police: Religious book may have saved RTA bus driver

Rickey Wagoner, 49, of Trotwood, was assaulted by three men in the 1900 block of Lakeview Avenue, while standing outside of his bus.

"His bus had stopped running and he got out to see what the problem was," Sgt. Michael Pauley of the Dayton Police Department said at the scene. A 911 call came in at 5:20 a.m. alerting police to the shooting.

"I've been hit in the leg," Wagoner told an emergency dispatcher. "My chest feels like I've been hit with a sledgehammer."

Three shots were fired at Wagoner — one struck him in the right leg and two were fired into his chest. Police said those bullets were stopped by some sort of "intervention."

"The two bullets were stopped by the New Testament book in his (shirt) pocket,"Pauley said. Police later referred to the book as a religious devotional titled "The Message," which is a modern translation of the Bible.

"There was obviously some kind of intervention involved in this incident, because he probably should not be here," Pauley said.

The victim's friends and family were inclined to agree with that assessment.

"God's on Rick's side," Lillie Brown, of Dayton, said in an interview. Brown said she has known Wagoner for at almost 20 years.

"Rick is a great guy, you couldn't ask for anybody better than Rick," she said, reacting to the news of his attack. "He's a great friend and terrific dad."

Wagoner's son Rickey Wagoner Jr. declined to speak in an interview but wrote Monday afternoon, "Dad is doing good now and my family and I are just lucky he is still alive," on his Facebook page.

Wagoner described the attackers as young black males, likely in their late teens. He said they fled in a dark-colored 1990s model Ford. No arrests have been made.

According to a police report, Wagoner told investigators he believed the shooting may have been a gang initiation. He said he heard one of the suspects tell another to kill him "if you want to be all the way in the club."

Sgt. Richard Blommel said Monday "It's way too early in the investigation" to make connections to gang violence but they don't believe the shooting was an attempted robbery. He said Wagoner was heavily sedated at Miami Valley Hospital when they attempted to interview him after the shooting.

"Amazingly, his injuries are not life threatening," Pauley said of Wagoner's condition. "He basically said he fought for his life."

According to Wagoner's police statement, the suspects approached him as he was trying to repair a malfunction with his bus. When he turned to face them, one fired two shots at Wagoner's chest. He then wrestled the gun away from the shooter but another round fired into his leg during the struggle.

As they fought, another suspect stabbed Wagoner in the left arm with a knife. Wagoner then pulled an aluminum pen from his pocket and made a strike.

"I stabbed one in the leg with my pen," Wagoner told dispatchers. "He hollered and that's when they all ran."

He told officers he used the dropped gun to fire at the suspects as they fled on Maclin Avenue.

The attack remains under investigation.

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