Catholic Priest Escape Bandits: I Kept Driving After Being Shot in the Stomach, Then I Passed Out

After being shot in the stomach, a Catholic priest continued driving until he passed out.

Some Nigerians living abroad find it difficult to contemplate coming home to see loved ones.

At first, there may be some hesitance due to a natural aversion to the unknown.
Blessed Father Aloysius Ezeonyeka

No matter how eager a traveler is to get back to the countryside, the prospect of taking a long road trip from Lagos, Abuja, Kano, or Port-Harcourt, where the major international airports are located, is usually unpleasant. They frequently have the difficult choice of whether or not to obtain escorts in order to protect themselves from potential bandit attacks. The returning man or woman may feel trapped between hell and high water upon their return.

Because of this, something happened. On December 29, 2020, Reverend Fr. Aloysius Ezeonyeka, 55, of Los Angeles, United States, returned home to Nigeria after living abroad for a while to spend time with his family.

Ezeonyeka broke down in tears as he described the terrifying moment he had to decide whether or not to continue driving after being shot in the stomach by armed bandits on the Lagos-Benin motorway in the automobile he had borrowed from a friend in a Dominican community in Lagos.

His spirituality was reawakened by the ordeal, which was terrifying in and of itself.

At first, he dismissed the loud, piercing sound coming from his tires as nothing more than a stone. Within a fraction of a second, though, it became clear where that noise had come from. His windshield was smashed as bullets whizzed by on either side, fired by two men crouching in roadside shrubs in front of him.

In an interview, he admitted that this was one of the most difficult choices he had ever taken, saying, “I didn’t know what to do, but I didn’t have any time to be terrified.”

As a Benedictine at Ewu Monastery, he had been down this road many times, and he knew from reports that it was now perilous due to bandits. But he certainly did not anticipate being the target of such vicious shooting.

Unharmed by the initial barrage of gunfire, he yet understood that his attackers sought his death.

At the very least, Ezeonyeka reasoned, she should try to challenge them.

He could take the lane farther away from the shooters, but that would give them more time to shoot at him, or he could take the lane directly in front of the shooters, both of which were bad options. Or, he could take the road that leads directly to the thicket where they’re hiding, but that would only make his automobile an easier target. One more choice was to direct his car in the direction of his assailants.

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He made a split-second choice and shoved himself behind the steering column, ducking for shelter under the dashboard as he floored the car’s accelerator.

His assailants dodged his car and retreated into the bushes, where they let forth another round of fire. Ezeonyeka’s stomach and a front tire were both hit by bullets, while Ezeonyeka also took some hits to the side.

With that many bullets, you’re bound to get shot at some point. My only surprise is that I was only struck once. I kept going,” he explained.

It was nearly impossible for me to stop the bleeding, but I grasped the wound as tightly as I could. I did that the best I could”.

Ezeonyeka knew he had to pull over as soon as he was out of danger, out of range, or he would pass out. Finally, he came onto a makeshift truck stop.

When the priest said, “This is where I need to stop,” the car suddenly shut off.
He got out of the wrecked car and promptly passed unconscious. However, no aid was available.

The vehicles he had observed were stalled. He had been bleeding on the ground for over an hour when others began to gather around him in sympathy.

The phrase “they were at a loss for words” is appropriate here. They were helpless because they lacked transportation. No one was coming to help. As he spoke, he prayed silently in his heart.
At around 6 o’clock in the evening, a young man introduced himself as God-is-Great. The youngster then raced to his father, who owned a freight vehicle, yelling that a man was dying and required immediate assistance.

Because they had to travel through the ambush location to get to the nearest hospital, the father, a police officer known as SunnyMopol, fetched his revolver. Telling his little son to take the wheel, he sat shotgun.

The robbers emerged from the bushes once more with God-is-Great at the wheel, but this time Sunny was prepared.

He then proceeded to fire his weapon aimlessly. Ezeonyeka explained that the robbers had fled because they had mistaken the police for an approaching army.
Chidiebere, a young man who had joined them, sat in the rear of the cargo vehicle with Ezeonyeka, and they prayed together in Igbo. There were repeated calls for the priest to open his eyes and pray aloud alongside the congregation.
When I wanted to give up, he would say, “No, no, no, Father, you’ll make it.”

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At 6:30 o’clock that evening, the group visited the first medical facility. However, the clinic did not have the necessary equipment to treat his condition. Concerned about the priest’s mental stability, the medical staff mumbled.

“‘Don’t worry about that man, he’s not going to make it. Look elsewhere; he’s doomed to die soon. Ezeonyeka remarked, “I heard them urging the doctor to focus on other patients because this man clearly wasn’t going to make it.”
I was all set. I made peace with it and expressed my thanks to God for the wonderful life He had bestowed upon me. In an effort to make amends for my wrongdoings, I expressed my regrets to Him. My soul was sacrificed. I must admit that I was a little intrigued to witness the final moments of human life. I waited, wondering what would happen, and how. Not at all.

After waiting for two hours in the clinic, he was transferred to the University of Benin City Teaching Hospital via ambulance.

At about 10 o’clock he showed up. All of the surgeons and most of the other doctors had left to celebrate New Year’s Eve with their families. There wasn’t much hope that he could be saved, according to the staff on hand.

Edo’s local media caught wind of the situation almost immediately, but the Catholic Archdiocese of Benin’s communications team convinced them to wait to report on Ezeonyeka’s whereabouts until she was secure. Then a group of Nigerian priests began working at full speed.

Ezeonyeka’s friends learned of his predicament and immediately began calling anyone they thought could help, including the Catholic Archbishop of Benin, His Grace Most Revd. Augustine Akubeze, and professors from the UNIBEN medical school with ties to the hospital.

A returning doctor assessed the situation and decided it would take a team of surgeons to give him a fighting chance. Because of his severe blood loss, doctors had to replace it before continuing. Around midnight, workers began the five-hour procedure.

Some of the physicians thought it was too late, but a couple insisted they didn’t care and would still perform the operation anyhow. After that, Ezeonyeka continued, “there was simply an astounding assortment of goodness.”

Titus, the priest’s brother, traveled three hours from the hamlet to SunnyMopol to retrieve his sibling’s belongings.

“Listen. Take care of everybody else, please. Ezeonyeka said to Titus, “I shall see you again,” as she was being wh

eeled into surgery on New Year’s Eve.

A soft slap on the face woke him up after five hours of sleep, and he opened his eyes to the sound of applause and cheers in the hospital room.

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Happy New Year, Dad! Welcome to 2021.” Joy flooded the faces of the weary physicians, nurses, friends, and family that encircled his bed.

There was more than just the New Year’s Eve news waiting for him when he woke up. Before he departed Los Angeles, an old acquaintance had also endured a terrifying experience in Owerri. Ezeonyeka learned that Moses Chikwe, an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Owerri and a former classmate of his in Los Angeles in 2002, had been abducted.

It has been reported that Chikwe was released the day after Ezeonyeka was shot and that no ransom was required. Ezeonyeka would also learn that a Nigerian from California, who had also gone home to Nigeria for holidays, was abducted and eventually murdered, even though his family had paid a ransom.

“There’s no way you can survive six, seven hours without medication and losing so much blood. We thought that was a remote possibility at best. At that clinic, they told me I didn’t have a chance of survival. The hospital staff was adamant that it would not work. Eventually the priest was able to recover and return to his parish in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in the United States. He attributes his recovery to pure providence.

Ezeonyeka added that he was thankful for the experience even now, because of how it has altered his relationship with God and his outlook on life.

According to my interpretation of events, God delayed my death because he knew I was not yet prepared. The afterlife was too much for me to handle at the time. I was not ready for Heaven. I needed more labor for sanctification. I needed to be alive for him to sanctify me and purify me and help me to be ready,” he stated.

The priest was also appreciative of the doctors and nurses who had carefully positioned his bed for constant observation. He was particularly grateful to the young man who prayed at his side during the frantic quest for medical help, imploring him to hang on.

He was inspired by the affection of his brother priests, who, late on a holiday night, contacted influential persons to secure the medical attention he needed to survive.

When asked about the thugs who shot and killed him, he stated, “I did pray for these criminals, hoping God would touch their hearts and transform them.”

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