(Rochester, N.Y.) – The mother of the teenager accused of shooting a police officer in a sniper-like attack says her son is not a “monster.”
Wanda Lise wiped away tears inside the courtroom where Tyquan Rivera was arraigned on attempted murder and assault charges. Tyquan was brought into the courtroom with his hands chained together, wearing a puffy winter coat and jeans. He pleaded not guilty and will be held at a youth detention facility without bail.
Police say Tyquan shot Officer Anthony DiPonzio in the back of the head on January 31 on Dayton Street. DiPonzio had brain surgery and faces a long recovery.
Tyquan turns 15 years old on Wednesday.
13WHAM News talked extensively with Lise at the courthouse and on the phone. Tyquan’s attorney, George Conaty, advised her not to do an on-camera interview, but Lise agreed to share statements and details about her son’s life.
Lise said Tyquan was severely burned when he was 5 years old. Calling the injury "traumatic," Lise said he had skin grafts on his arm and hand.
Lise said a doctor diagnosed Tyquan as being bipolar, but he would not take medication. Lise said she filed a Person in Need of Supervision (PINS) petition on her son, a form of youth probation. She said Tyquan spent about a year at St. Joseph’s Villa, a facility for troubled youths, before running away.
Tyquan’s mother said he does not have a violent history. She said Tyquan did not know police were searching for him for several days before he turned himself in. She does not believe he is guilty.
“He's not the monster they're trying to create him as,” she said, adding that she has received "hate mail" about the case. Lise works as an aide at a nursing home. Tyquan has two older brothers.
Lise does not believe Tyquan understands the seriousness of what’s happening.
“He seems to be doing very well under the circumstances,” said Conaty. “He's a young boy and doesn't know, this is obviously very new to him. Under the circumstances he's doing okay.”
Monroe County District Attorney Mike Green would not comment on Tyquan’s background.
“The focus here is going to be what happened on January 31. Is he the person that got the gun and fired it at police and hit the officer in the head?” Green said “That's what we're going to focus on. What his history is may be relevant if he's ultimately convicted. That might be something a judge might want to take into account with regards to sentencing.”
Tyquan faces a maximum of 3 ½ to 10 years in prison if convicted. Green revealed that Tyquan did not make any statements to police. Lise said it's very important to her that Tyquan get a fair trial and she wants people to withhold judgment until all of the facts come out.
Across the courtroom sat Officer DiPonzio’s parents.
“My heart goes out to the officer and his family. I am a human being and I have feelings,” said Lise. “I want to talk to them. I would give them my sympathy.”