OH: Neighbors Surprised by RTA Racially Charged Story Fabrication

June 20--Neighbors of a Dayton bus driver who gave a racially-charged account that he was assaulted by three black teens said they were surprised Thursday that a police investigation concluded the story was fabricated.

Sheila and her son, Richard Martin, said they've known Dayton Regional Transit Authority driver Rickey Wagoner for many years. They live across the street. Sheila moved to the house in 1971.

"I can't understand why he would fabricate such a story. I mean it's not in his best interest," Sheila Martin said.

Added Richard: "It does surprise me, that you know, he would say this happened and it didn't."

The two said they understood Wagoner has suffered from bone joint problems most of his life, including having a hip replaced. Sheila said she didn't think he would risk losing his legs by shooting himself.

"I believe it happened the way he said it did," she said.

University of Dayton Law Professor Emeritus Vernelia Randall, who specializes in race relations, said her interpretation is that the race of the assailants was a bid to attract more attention.

"Saying that a group of black men attack you, causes more attention than just saying a group of any other group of men," Randall said. "There's a reason people go to that scenario, especially when they're trying to scam. Because there's a tendency to believe it's true before the evidence is in."

The Dayton Police investigation report released Wednesday found that Wagoner's claim that three black teenagers shot and stabbed him was not supported by the evidence and a reconstruction of the incident.

The police investigation was forwarded to the city of Dayton's Law Department, which spent a month reviewing it. Police Chief Richard Biehl said potential charges included the misdemeanor of making a false police report.

The city of Dayton issued a prepared statement Thursday saying City Prosecutor Stephanie Cook would not comment on why the investigation did not result in charges against Wagoner.

"The city of Dayton will provide no further information on the status of filing charges in the case of Mr. Rickey Wagoner. It is city policy to not comment on charging decisions," said the statement from Dayton spokesman Bryan Taulbee.

Biehl said key elements of Wagoner's story -- the sequence of events and ballistics tests on the gun said to be used in the shooting -- could not have happened as described.

RTA said based on its internal investigation and the police probe, Wagoner has been accused of violations of its Employee Standards of Performance.

"He will receive full due process and fair consideration including an opportunity to present evidence in support of his position in the matter, as would any RTA employee," RTA Executive Director Mark Donaghy said.

Wagoner remains on paid administrative leave. At his home Wednesday, Wagoner declined to comment.

WHIO-TV reporter Glenn Cassie contributed to this report.

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