Conviction for Attempted First Degree Murder of a Law Enforcement Officer

This afternoon, Yousel Rivera, was found guilty as charged of Attempted First Degree Murder of a Law Enforcement Officer. Rivera shot Cape Coral Police Officer David Wagoner, during a traffic stop in 2011.

The jury also returned special findings that during the commission of the offense, the defendant actually possessed a firearm, carried or used a firearm, discharged a firearm, and caused great bodily harm to Officer Wagoner as a result of the discharge of a firearm.

Assistant State Attorney Stephanie Russell, Lee County Misdemeanor Division Chief, and Abe Thornburg, Deputy Chief of the Hendry County Office of the State Attorney, prosecuted the case.

On April 16, 2011, just before 1 a.m., Officer Wagoner, driving a marked patrol car, made a routine traffic stop on Santa Barbara Boulevard. The defendant was in the passenger side of the vehicle. As Officer Wagoner approached the passenger side and asked for identification, the defendant pulled out a gun and fired three shots at Officer Wagoner, at point blank range. Two bullets struck the officer’s bullet-proof vest and the third bullet penetrated his stomach. The impact of the bullets caused him to fall backwards and the defendant, as seen on police dashcam video, was still aiming at Officer Wagoner as he fell.

The defendant then climbed over his girlfriend, who had been driving, and started to speed off, as Officer Wagoner returned fire. Also at this time, Officer Wagoner, used his police radio to call for help. He gave dispatch a description of the suspect, the car, and the direction they were traveling. Other Cape Coral Police Officers quickly arrived on scene, performing life saving measures. The quick action by those on scene, helped to save Officer Wagoner’s life. Several citizens who had been driving by the scene, also stopped to try to help.

Following the shooting, the defendant crashed the car into a home along Santa Barbara Boulevard. He then ran from the crash scene. The Cape Coral Police Department, along with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Fort Myers Police Department, began a manhunt for the suspect. The defendant was located hiding in a trash can near the crash. The defendant had taken off his clothes worn during the crime and hid them. The clothing was recovered as evidence as was the firearm used in the crime.

“I hope today’s verdict helps Cape Coral Police Officer Wagoner and his family continue to have some peace following the horrendous events that unfolded during what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop. Officer Wagoner is a true hero. He continued to put citizens first, returning fire, though wounded, to try to stop the suspect. He also called dispatch to alert them to what happened and provided a full description of the suspect and vehicle, so no one else would get hurt. Let today’s verdict be a reminder, any attacks on our law enforcement will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said State Attorney Amira Fox.

Rivera was originally convicted at trial and sentenced to life in prison in 2013. This week’s retrial was due to the conviction being overturned due to an issue involving jury instructions in the first trial.

Sentencing is scheduled for March 12, 2024. The defendant will be sentenced to mandatory life in prison.

Samantha Syoen – Communications Director, State Attorney’s Office