Man gets death penalty for killing East Palo Alto cop

Officer Richard May, left, was killed by Alberto Alvarez, right, outside a taqueria in 2006. (ABC7)

December 22, 2009 11:55:02 PM PST
The grief will never leave them, but now there is some measure of peace this holiday season for the family of an East Palo Alto police officer killed in the line of duty.

On Tuesday, the jury recommended the death penalty for the convicted killer, 26-year-old Alberto Alvarez. They could have chosen life in prison instead. ABC7 spoke with one of the jurors about what swayed them.

Officer Richard May's death hit this police department very hard. That's why many officers were inside the court room while the verdict was being read. It was a day filled with a lot of emotion from those in the audience and in the jury box.

"Nothing will bring him back. We've been looking forward to this day for four long years," said Officer May's wife Diana May.

It's a bittersweet victory for Diana May. Tuesday, a jury decided the man who murdered her husband, should be put to death.

East Palo Alto Police Officer Richard May was called to a restaurant to break up a fight in 2006 when he was shot and killed by Alberto Alvarez.

Jurors deliberated for four days before coming back with the death penalty verdict.

"He had 12 jurors and he had a judge; my husband had one person, one person that made that choice for him, one," said Diana.

Prosecutors proved Alvarez shot officer may at point blank range. That is what played a major role in Juror #10's decision. That juror chose not to be identified.

"Just to know that someone could be so cold and callous and to me that was execution, just to hear that, just plays over and over in my mind -- that's not something I'm ever going to forget," said Juror #10.

Neither will May's fellow police officers. Many were in the courtroom today.

"I'm happy for the family they can have closure and sad that Alberto Alvarez's family have to hear a verdict of death, but fair is fair," said May's former partner, Officer Shante Williams.

"I would call it a success, a success because Officer May's murder has been judged to be what it was, an execution that warranted the highest penalty that we have available in our society," said Chief. Deputy D.A. Steve Wagstaffe.

Defense attorney Eric Liberman only had one thing to say about the jury's decision: "I'm very disappointed and I feel terrible for Mr. Alvarez's family. But we respect and honor the jury's verdict."

The defense will fight the jury's verdict in February -- that's when the judge makes this decision final.

Alvarez is the first person to receive the death penalty for a crime committed in San Mateo County in 15 years.

May is survived by his wife and three children. He served in law enforcement for 15 years and was a veteran of the first Gulf War.


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