A Cape Coral man was found guilty Thursday of shooting a police officer during a 2011 traffic stop.
Yousel Lopez Rivera, 22, of 320 N.W. Third Lane, was convicted of one count of attempted first-degree murder on a law enforcement officer while possessing a firearm. After seven days of testimony and arguments from both sides, a jury deliberated for about an hour before coming to the verdict.
"We're very glad that the jury listened to the facts and the evidence of the case and came back with the right verdict of guilty," State Attorney Steve Russell, who was the lead prosecutor on the case, said.
Assistant state attorney Marie Scalise served as co-counsel for the prosecution.
"I hope today's verdict sends a message that violence against law enforcement will not be tolerated," Russell said.
Rivera is facing a maximum sentence of life in prison. Sentencing is set for 10 a.m. Sept. 16.
Attorney David Brener represented Rivera.
He did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the case Thursday.
Samantha Syoen, spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office, said officials cannot anticipate what a jury will do, but she pointed to the crime being caught on camera and the facts and evidence presented.
"It's not hard to understand that the jury came to a decision quickly," she said.
On April 16, 2011, Rivera fired three shots at Cape police Officer David Wagoner during a routine traffic stop on Santa Barbara Boulevard North. Two bullets struck Wagoner's bullet-proof vest, but the last hit him in the abdomen. He was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Wagoner underwent emergency surgery and was released from the hospital days later.
Rivera was initially charged with homicide murder while engaged in a certain felony offense.
The state amended the charge to attempted first-degree murder.
Neither Wagoner nor his family could be reached for comment Thursday.
The Cape Coral Police Department released the following statement:
"The Cape Coral Police Department would like to thank State Attorney Steve Russell and his prosecutorial team for their hard work and dedication in making the state's case. We would also like to thank the members of the jury for their time and service, understanding the burden that this has placed on them and their families. We also want to take this time to thank the men and women of the Cape Coral Police Department - police officers, detectives, forensic and evidence personnel - for their tireless efforts in putting together the best possible criminal case. The Cape Coral Police Department respects the jury's decision and the hard work that it took to arrive at this guilty verdict. Finally, we want to thank the community for the overwhelming support that has been shown towards Officer Wagoner since this all began Today's guilty verdict marks an end to a long and painful chapter in the life of Officer Dave Wagoner, and in the history of the Cape Coral Police Department."
Wagoner conducted the stop at 12:41 a.m. on a Cadillac sedan being driven by a 17-year-old woman. He asked the driver for her license and then asked the passenger, Rivera, if he had identification.
Rivera told Wagoner that he did not.
Wagoner asked the driver to get out her registration and proof of insurance, then walked around to the passenger's side window. As Wagoner got to the window, Rivera shot at Wagoner at point blank range.
Wagoner returned fire; Rivera and the driver were not hit.
Rivera jumped into the driver's seat on top of the woman and began driving away from the scene. The woman was still seat belted in. Rivera crashed into a home at 1138 block of Santa Barbara Blvd. N.
He fled the scene, but police later found him at a nearby home hiding naked in a garbage can.
During the crash, the driver of the Cadillac was hurt, along with a person inside of the struck home. Both were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
The woman was not charged in the incident.
Authorities reported at the time of the incident that Rivera was a documented gang member of the "Krazy Getdown Boys," or "KGB." The group is a statutorily recognized criminal street gang.