(Rochester, N.Y.) -- When Anthony DiPonzio was growing up, he wanted one thing: to be a police officer.
Those who know DiPonzio, who was shot Saturday afternoon, said he has the skill, deep faith, and character required for the job.
DiPonzio’s former coach Jim Shook said, "He is...the kind of guy you would want to be out there. You know he's going to do the right thing and support his fellow officers like they would support him. He's the kind of police officer you want."
DiPonzio was Shook's second baseman on the 1999 Aquinas JV team—and he played varsity football for two years.
He was a good student and a history buff. He also volunteered as a peer counselor to younger students. Today, some of those students joined in prayer for his recovery.
Shook said, “When he told me it was Tony...I couldn't talk for a few minutes; I was not expecting the severe blow. But we're here praying for him."
Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn said DiPonzio worked part time patrolling county parks for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, but when a full-time job option came up with the Rochester Police Department, O’Flynn said DiPonzio jumped at the chance.
He enrolled in the academy last February. When he was shot Saturday, he had been working patrol for less than a year
"They've been public servants…trying to make the community safe. This is senseless." O’Flynn said.
"It was difficult seeing Tony like that," said Bill Sachman who said Tony DiPonzio is a best friend.
The two mentored other college students as resident advisors at SUNY Brockport.
"I'm hoping he can pull through this,” Sachman said. “It’s difficult to see your best friend in a hospital bed -- it hits home that you can't take life for granted.”
"He was a sweet young man," Shook said. "Very caring, he gave you everything that he had."
The teenager who might have been involved in his shooting was the kind of person Tony would have helped. Shook said that’s one thing that makes the news of what happened so hard to take.
"He's strong,” Sachman said. “He's caring and I know he can pull out of this."
As of Monday night, DiPonzio is listed in guarded condition at Rochester General Hospital. Several people who met with him say there are encouraging signs; he was able to respond and give doctors a thumbs-up Sunday.
Doctors say he is about three weeks ahead of where they thought he would be at this stage.
His family released a statement saying, “We would like to thank the entire greater Rochester community for the outpouring of love-- support and prayers for our son during this very challenging and difficult time."
They also thanked the officers who saved his life.
Sheriff's deputies pitched in to cover the east side of the city so more Rochester police officers could work the DiPonzio case. Hundreds of officers have visited him.