WICHITA, Kan. -- As they watched him appear in court Thursday for the first time, Christopher Cooper's family remained adamant that the way he's been characterized by police is far from reality.
Police say Cooper, 19, and Dametrius Williams are connected to a gang-related shooting on South Cypress last weekend that left 20-year-old Juan Orona dead.
"It's heart breaking because we know that's not who he is," said Tasha Grant, Cooper's aunt.
Grant was among 10 of Cooper's family members who sat in court Thursday as Cooper and Williams made their first appearance and were formally charged with first degree murder.
As the judge read the charge, several of Cooper's family members broke down in tears.
They say police have the wrong man.
"He's a good kid, respectable, never been in trouble, doesn't have a criminal record, not a known gang member," Grant said. "So this is kind of crazy to us when we and everybody else knows that's not who he is or what he would have done."
They say Cooper is a driven student and football player at Highland Community College (Mo.). They say he was working at a local retail store.
They say he wound up in the wrong place at the wrong time and has been wrongfully accused.
"He's here on summer break having fun like everybody else," Grant said. "He went to a house party to have fun but it turned out really bad."
They say after the shooting, Cooper met with police to cooperate as a witness. But the family says it wasn't long later he was charged with first degree murder.
"I don't understand how it can go from one extreme to the other extreme without proper evidence that we know of," Grant said.
Cooper's family says kids at the party, even other people of interest in the case, have said Cooper had nothing to do with the shooting. They say they'll fight to make sure that comes out in court and hope others will do the same.
"If anyone knows anything that was there and can shed light on him being innocent and him not being wrapped up in this, please come forward and say something," Grant said. "Don't let him go down for it, especially if they know him and they know how he is. They know that's not him."