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Published: Monday, February 24, 2014 @ 8:34 PM
Updated: Monday, February 24, 2014 @ 8:34 PM
DAYTON — An RTA bus driver survived being shot and stabbed in a seemingly random attack Monday he told police occurred during what he believes was some kind of gang initiation.
Rickey Wagoner, 49, of Trotwood, was standing outside his bus in the 1900 block of Lakeview Avenue when three males assaulted him. He described his attackers as black teenagers who were wearing dark colored hoodies. All three wore dark blue bandannas to obscure their faces.
"His bus had stopped running and he got out to see what the problem was," Dayton Sgt. Michael Pauley said. A 911 call to police came in at 5:20 a.m.
"I've been hit in the leg," Wagoner told an emergency dispatcher. "My chest feels like I've been hit with a sledgehammer."
One round hit him in the right leg and two found his chest. One of the slugs hit him as he wrestled the gun from the shooter, according to police.
"The two bullets were stopped by the New Testament book in his (shirt) pocket," Pauley said. Police referred to the book as a religious devotional, "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.
"Amazingly, his injuries are not life threatening," Pauley said. "He basically said he fought for his life."
Wagoner told police that one of the suspects stabbed him in his left arm during the struggle. Wagoner then pulled an aluminum pen from his pocket and stabbed one of the attackers in the leg.
"He hollered and that's when they all ran," Wagoner told a dispatcher. He told officers he used the dropped gun to fire at the suspects as they fled on Maclin Avenue in a dark-colored 1990s Ford.
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, you have to kill the polar bear."
Polar bear is street lingo to identify a person as white.
So-called "polar bear attacks" and the "knockout game" are shorthand for black-on-white attacks.
Monday afternoon, Dayton Sgt. Richard Blommel said, "It's way too early in the investigation" to make connections to gang violence but police don't believe the attack was an attempted robbery. He said Wagoner was heavily sedated at Miami Valley Hospital when they attempted to interview him after the shooting.
Dayton Maj. Chris Williams said he's not aware of any similar attacks in recent years or anything like it that could potentially be a street gang initiation in Dayton. Police believe the suspects are possibly ages 15 to 18.
Wagoner's friends and family are inclined to agree with the assessment that what happened with the slugs being stopped by the book was an intervention.
"God's on Rick's side," said Lillie Brown, a Dayton woman who has known Wagoner for 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."