Man sentenced to life for killing SFPD officer

January 25, 2011 11:30:11 PM PST
The man convicted of killing San Francisco police officer Nick-Tomasito Birco in July of 2006 has been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Judge Newton Lam pronounced the sentence this morning to a crowded courtroom as Birco's parents, interim Police Chief Jeff Godown and other officers listened.

Officer Birco, 39, was in his patrol car when it was hit by a van driven by Steven Petrilli, 24, and carrying two other men, all of whom face charges associated with the case. Petrilli told police he and the others had committed a string of robberies that evening and were fleeing from police during a high speed chase when the the fatal crash happened at Cambridge and Felton streets.

Tomasito Birco, father of the murdered officer, spoke in court before the sentence was handed down, saying justice had prevailed and that he forgave his son's killer.

"Forgiveness is not a gift for others. It's a gift to ourselves," Birco told the court.

After Birco spoke, Petrilli who was only 19 at the time of the incident, went over to the witness stand and read a tearful apology to Birco's family and the San Francisco Police Dept.

"I'm not a bad person," Petrilli said, "I didn't mean for this to happen. I was young and stupid. I didn't do it on purpose. It was truly an accident."

Interim Police Chief Jeff Godown joined rank and file officers in court. He asked the judge to impose the death penalty, saying, "Whether the defendant is remorseful or not, it will not bring back Officer Birco."

Before Judge Lam pronounced sentence, he looked at Petrilli and said, "Regret is a powerful thing. Redemption is also powerful. But before one can have redemption, there must be consequence."

He then sentenced Petrilli to life without parole.