Dunia Sibomana, an eighth-grader at Long Beach Middle School and newly crowned high school state wrestling champion, wa named honorary police commissioner of Long Beach for the day. Newsday's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday file; Kendall Rodriguez

Dunia Sibomana went from middle school student in the morning to police commissioner by noon.

The 14-year-old Long Beach wrestler was selected for the honorary position for persevering over personal tragedy and capturing the New York State high school wrestling championship at the MVP Arena in Albany last weekend. Sibomana, an eighth-grader, won all four of his matches on his way to the 102-pound state title. After pinning his opponent in the finals before a crowd of more than 5,000, Sibomana leaped into the arms of Long Beach assistant wrestling coach Miguel Rodriguez, his adoptive father.

On Friday, Sibomana sat in the lead SUV of a four-vehicle police escort that took him the 2.7 miles from the middle school, down Lido Boulevard to police headquarters. With the vehicle's lights flashing and siren blaring, Sibomana rode in the front seat next to Police Commissioner Ronald J. Walsh Jr. to be sworn in as the honorary LBPD commissioner for a day.

"It was really cool," he said. "I really didn’t know what to expect."

When Sibomana was 6, he and two family members were attacked by chimpanzees while playing in the jungle of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Central Africa. His brother and cousin were killed.

Sibomana survived but suffered horrific injuries to his lips and face. His right ear and facial muscles were gone, and the middle finger on his left hand was bitten off. When he was 8, Sibomana arrived on Long Island for the first of 14 facial reconstruction surgeries.

"He is an inspiration to us all," Walsh said. "He’s very modest and to think of all he’s been through and what he’s accomplished is unbelievable. A story like Dunia’s can bring the police and the community even closer together."

Long Beach's Dunia Sibomana defeated Chenango Forks' Ryan Ferrara in the 102-pound final during the 2022 NYSPHSAA wrestling championships on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, at the MVP Arena in Albany, N.Y. Credit: Newsday / Video/William Perlman; Photo/J. Conrad Williams. Jr./Video/William Perlman; Photo/J. Conrad Williams. Jr.

Since the big win, Sibomana has been showered with accolades and attention.

"He has been on a cloud," said his adoptive mother, Marissa Rodriguez. "It’s been a breathtaking ride for such a good boy."

Sibomana smiled for photos on the steps of the precinct before getting a full tour. They stopped by the records department, where one employee asked his new boss for a raise, which made him laugh.

"I wanted to be a police officer when I was younger," he said. "But now I want to be an architect and go back to my country and build houses for my people."

Dunia Sibomana, an eighth-grader from Long Beach won the 102-pound title at the Nassau County high school wrestling championships on Feb. 13, 2022, several years after being attacked by chimpanzees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He started wrestling after meeting the Rodriguez family, who later went on to adopt him. Newsday's Gregg Sarra has the story. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara, Gregg Sarra/Thomas A. Ferrara, Gregg Sarra

He visited the precinct's seven jail cells and dropped into the traffic division, where he was handed reports of car and catalytic converter thefts.

"We wanted to honor him in a special way and let him know how proud we are to have him in our community," Walsh said. "He’s the first-ever honorary police commissioner in Long Beach. His journey is an incredible one. And we want to celebrate beautiful stories like his."

After Sibomana was sworn in, Walsh signed the paperwork and presented him with a sweatshirt that read, "Dunia Sibomana-Rodriguez, New York State Wrestling Champion, LBPD Commissioner for a day."

He completed his day with a patrol ride along the beach.

"He’s a very shy guy and our police are top-notch and made him feel very comfortable," Miguel Rodriguez said. "He was surrounded by the top police brass. He loved the SUV ride on the beach."

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