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As Investigation Continues, Isiah Wagoner Recovers From Hit-And-Run Incident

Brian Bull

A Black Unity activist suspects “pure anger” was behind a driver’s motive for striking him with his vehicle at a children’s march last month.

Isiah Wagoner is recuperating at home, with bed rest and painkillers after the June 28th incident.  Eugene Police are investigating why Travis Paul Waleri was driving through the march, and expect to conclude their probe soon.

Wagoner is contending with his injuries, but is also deeply concerned with how the hit-and-run affected children present at the event.  This includes Wagoner’s own daughter.

“It’s been tough man, it’s just…she doesn’t really still understand what happened," he tells KLCC.

"And all she knows is…is there someone trying to hurt Dad?  So…it’s been tough, man.  It’s been tough emotionally, physically, and mentally.”

Wagoner says Black Americans have contended with racist violence for centuries.  He says that’s why he and other activists march, to help bring peace to the community. 

An Extended Conversation

Credit Ceara Dawn Swogger
Isiah Wagoner (third from right) and other Black activists at a June march in Eugene.

The 29-year-old Eugenean has put himself at risk before as a Black Unity activist. During the first week of events, he implored rioters to stop destroying Eugene businesses, and intervened between an armed provocateur and a Black Lives Matter marcher.

KLCC's Brian Bull visited Wagoner in his home, and talked about this latest incident that happened in front of nearly two dozen children.


Wagoner: I was scared. I was frightened because the way I was facing I didn’t know exactly where the children were.  At that very moment, am I getting hit by this car or am I jumping out of the way, depending on where the kids are at?

Bull: Can you describe what you saw before you were hit? You said you made brief eye contact with the driver.

Wagoner: The driver did look at me, and he did flip me off.  I don’t want to say what another man’s thinking, but to me it was,  “I’m going through you whether you move or not."

Bull: We’re here in your home, and I see you’ve got a computer, a book, a blanket, everything...what’s your current condition like, Isiah?

Wagoner: There’s a lot of pain in my back. My lower back, it’s kinda all pushed together.  My mental state is…there’s some good days and there’s some bad days. I’m very emotional at these times. I’m very confused. It’s been tough on my daughter, she just recently came home after three days because she was very shooken up with that. She had to stay with family members because of what was going on.  She still doesn’t really still understand what happened. All she knows is that is, is someone trying to hurt dad? It’s been tough man, it’s tough emotionally, physically, and mentally.

Bull: As of this recording, 1pm on Friday afternoon, Eugene police say they’ve been seeking video evidence, they’ve talked to witnesses, and talked to you, and there could be potential charges announced soon in the day or days ahead. Do you think there’ll be a throughout investigation, and possible charges?

Credit Ceara Dawn Swogger
Isiah Wagoner stands alongside a June 2020 march in Eugene.

Wagoner: I think there will be a thorough investigation, but I urge them to look at why this individual felt that was okay and could have potentially hurt, killed, a lot of kids.  So all I can do is hope and pray, I can’t speak for departments and everything like that, and what they’re doing, but they seem to be doing the best that they can.  But people just want justice.  We just want justice at the end of the day.

Bull: There’s still events, still protests, gatherings, and rallies in the days to come, but some people may be troubled by that incident and may worry for their own safety. Do you have any advice or encouragement as they take to the streets to make their voices heard?

Wagoner:  Ever since Black people were born, we walk on a thin (line) that Americans come to know...what a death-row sentence is. And what a death-row sentence is, is when they finally come and call, and say it’s your time. Whether that’s me being in the wrong area, me being in the wrong car, the wrong place at the wrong time, guilty by association…that’s how Black people feel in this country. Because we see so many people dying on our streets. That are young. And old.

If you’re afraid, this isn’t for you.  Because the time is not now to be afraid, the time is now to step up.  The time is now to do exactly what you can to see real change. I love each and every one of the people that are out there, going out there every single night because they want to see real change, standing together as a people. That’s why the people are taking to the streets.

I’m not calling you a coward by any stretch of the imagination, if you feel like you must fight from home because you have a family to protect, which is understand --- (it’s) why we’re fighting for your families to be protected as well for those people of color. So make sure you always show your love.  Make sure you can donate to any organization out there that’s for good that you can. And reach out to people to make sure everybody’s okay. There’s multiple ways you can help without having to come out in the streets if that’s not for you.

Bull:  Isiah Wagoner, thank you very much for your time and hope you’re feeling better soon.

Wagoner:  It was an honor and a pleasure.

Note:  A “Justice for Isiah” march is scheduled for 7pm tonight (7/3/20) at Westmoreland Park (FRIDAY).

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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