The bandits stepped from the roadside bushes and opened fire just as Father Aloysius Ezoenyeka finished praying the rosary. The pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Ventura was driving on a deserted highway as New Year’s Eve afternoon dimmed into evening, on the way from the airport in Lagos to visit his family in southeastern Nigeria.
He floored the gas, not slowing as bullets tore into the car, believing he was more likely to die if he stopped. One round stuck him in the stomach as another sliced into a tire.
“But I had to hold the wound and keep driving,” he said.
Father Ezoenyeka is now back at his parish in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, describing himself as “about 90%” healed. His survival — which owes much to a little boy and his father who stepped up as good Samaritans — was far from assured.
As he fled his attackers, Father Ezoenyeka knew he would have to pull over before he passed out. At last he spotted a makeshift truck stop.
“As soon as I said, ‘This is where I need to stop,’ the engine died,” he recalled.
He staggered from the car and collapsed.
But there was no help. The trucks he had seen were broken down. Sympathetic people gathered as he lay on the ground, bleeding, for almost an hour.
“They didn’t know what to do. They had no vehicle. There was no help coming,” he said. “I was praying.”
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