‘If he would have went bang, bang, I wouldn’t be here today’: Uber driver shot in head shares story for first time

Even though she’s severed ties, Linda Buford still wants to help Uber and other rideshare companies to protect their drivers.
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 9:10 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 2, 2023 at 7:58 AM CST
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - She’s lucky to be alive; an Uber driver was shot in the head just 13 days ago.

Linda Buford shares her harrowing story for the first time and her message for the teen charged with pulling the trigger.

“You get ten seconds, ten seconds to make a life-changing decision,” Buford said. “So if I didn’t hit it, it would have dropped. I would have lost my bonus.”

It started off like any other Friday night for Buford. She said Uber offered her a $350 bonus if she met their quota. That prompted Buford to accept rides she normally wouldn’t take in areas where she didn’t feel safe.

“Ever since I started for them I was a slight bit trepidatious of the danger but I was like ‘you just be smart, you don’t go where you know not to go,’” Buford said.

Going against her better judgment, she said she accepted a ride on Jan. 20 off Hewes Avenue. Gulfport police say 17-year-old Trinyell Coats requested the ride from his brother’s account.

“I’m driving to pick him up and he texts me, ‘Meet me by the side where the mailboxes are,’” Buford said. “It’s dark, very scary back there. Usually, within 30 seconds, they are usually in the car. It was like four minutes.”

When Coats finally got inside her vehicle, Buford said he didn’t say a word, even when she tried to speak to him.

“To be honest with you, I was scared,” Buford said. “I’m watching the time. I’m pulling down the road, Tennessee Street. I’m pulling down the road and I said, ‘Is this it baby,’ and he says pull to the stop sign, and so I did. I stopped. He opened the door. I had my foot on the gas. I said ‘thank you. Have a nice...’ BAM. I knew it. I knew it. I felt it go in and I felt it crumble, and just shoot out.”

Linda hit the gas, driving nearly 80 miles an hour away from Tennessee Street and Chicago Avenue. She laid on the horn speeding through neighborhoods.

“I was coming down Pass Road and I knew that Rouses was about two miles away,” Buford said. “My phone’s right here so I dialed 911. I’ve been shot, but they couldn’t understand me and I’m like, ‘you have got to be kidding me.’”

She made it to Rouses parking lot. Confused shoppers walked out of the store to find Buford on the ground just outside her SUV begging for help. Medics on the ground sent her by air to an out-of-state hospital.

“I knew I was going to live,” Buford said. “When I was in the helicopter and had to hang on and the blood stopped, I felt like I was going to live.”

“I think he wanted the car,” Buford said.

The question she can’t answer - why her?

“I have a baby that needs me,” Buford said. “What could be so important to you that you would destroy my life? I want to ask him myself. What could you need so desperately that my life and my baby mean nothing to you?”

Before the shooting, Linda was well-known on the Coast in fitness circles for operating several businesses. She even won Wheel of Fortune in 2007. She was only doing delivery and driving work to supplement her income. Even though she’s severed ties, Buford still wants to help Uber and other rideshare companies to protect their drivers.

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