The scholarship, awarded to police officers wounded in the line of duty and their families, is in its third year.
“Each year we’re blown away by both the quality and quantity of applicants,” says BrickHouse CEO Todd Morris. “This year was no exception, and we couldn’t be more proud to award our scholarship to David and Hannah.”
Unlike past recipients, Mr. Wagoner became a sworn police officer later in life. Having worked in forestry in both West Virginia and New York State for nearly 20 years, during the economic downturn of the mid-2000s he found himself with a family of five and in need of a career change. Because of Florida’s more lax age requirements, in 2007 Mr. Wagoner was able to enter the police academy at age 39.
“Law enforcement is an honorable profession where there’s always work,” Mr. Wagoner says of his decision to enter the force. “And it allowed me to be with my family.”
Entering the academy at nearly 40 presented unique challenges both personally and physically. Personally, Mr. Wagoner had to focus on his studies, putting a heavier parenting burden on his wife, Patty. Physically, the aches and pains of the academy hit a little harder.
“I definitely enlisted the resources of a chiropractor,” Mr. Wagoner says with a chuckle.
Mr. Wagoner’s career in law enforcement was cut short after less than ten years on the force, all the result of a highly publicized and shocking incident in 2011.
Officer Wagoner was performing a routine traffic stop, pulling over a black Cadillac sedan for having expired tags. After asking for and receiving identification from the 17-year-old female driver, he then questioned the 20-year-old male passenger for the same. When the passenger, Yousel Lopez Rivera, stated that he had no identification, Officer Wagoner approached the passenger side of the vehicle.
In an instant, Rivera pulled a revolver and shot Officer Wagoner three times at point-blank range. Two of the bullets were stopped by his Armor Express ballistic vest, while the third passed below the vest, through his abdomen and out of his back.
As Officer Wagoner radioed for assistance, the vehicle sped away, only to crash into a home about a quarter mile from the shooting. Rivera was found by Cape Coral Police, heavily assisted by their K-9 unit, hiding in a garbage can next to a nearby home.
Warning: Graphic Content
Dash cam footage of the incident.
Rivera was later found guilty of attempted first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.
“I survived the life threatening injuries of the event,” Mr. Wagoner wrote in his application essay required for the scholarship, “and I was back on patrol within seven months, continuing my service to the citizens of my city.”
For his bravery in the field, Officer Wagoner received a number of commendations, including a Medal of Honor, a Purple Heart, and being named Cape Coral Officer of the Year in 2011.
“Officer Wagoner is one of our finest police officers,” Cape Coral Police Chief Jay Murphy said at the time of the Officer of the Year award ceremony. “I can think of no one more deserving of this distinguished honor from the Southwest Florida Police Chief’s Association. David Wagoner embodies what the SWFPCA is all about by bringing to life their number one purpose and goal – to uphold the honor of law enforcement.”
Despite his quick return to the field so shortly after his injury, Officer Wagoner was recommended to retire by his doctors in October 2015, a decision that reaffirmed his belief in what he calls “the importance of a well-rounded higher education.”
The value of education is something Mr. Wagoner has passed on to his daughter, Hannah, the scholarship’s main recipient.
Hannah is a 17-year-old senior at North Fort Myers High School. Her commitment to schooling has earned her an astronomical 5.04 GPA, and her dedication to music studies has made her a drum major, a leader in her school’s band—though leader is a label she doesn’t wholly accept.
“I try to be a leader by example,” Hannah says. “I don’t want people to think that I’m a bully type, because that’s not what I am. I think of myself more as a ‘respectful enforcer.'”
When she graduates, she will attend Florida Gulf Coast University with plans of becoming a prosecuting attorney, a decision impacted by her father’s career in law enforcement as well as his traumatic incident. She also hopes to keep up with her interest in music by minoring in music education.
The 2017 scholarship is now accepting submissions. Read more about it here.