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FRANCISCO LUNA of East Palo Alto, holding his son, Andres, lights a candle Monday at a memorial for slain police officer Richard May near the East Palo Alto Civic Center. <a href="javascript:var x=window.open('http://extras.insidebayarea.com/ot/gallery/index.asp?folder=news/copshot','photos','height=700,width=500');"> <b>View Photo Gallery</b></a>
EAST PALO ALTO — Two small vases and a white poinsettia stood alongside a bloodstained Weeks Street driveway, marking the spot where police officer Richard May, 38, was fatally shot Saturday while chasing a suspect from a Cooley Avenue taqueria.

Grim memorials to the officer cropped up yesterday around town as area law enforcement continued to investigate the crime and East Palo Alto officers underwent grief counseling. In the meantime Alberto Alvarez, 23, the man suspected of shooting and killing May sat in jail on charges of first-degree murder of a peace officer. He is expected to be arraigned today on the charges, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Alvarez had been on parole after serving 16 months for a probation violation regarding possession of marijuana for sale and a concealed weapon. The arraignment was postponed a day due to the tremendous scope of the investigation, Wagstaffe said.

May was shot Saturday when he responded to a call at 4:30 p.m. about a fight at Villa Taqueria on Cooley Avenue. May gave chase, and the suspect, believed to be Alvarez, turned and shot him several times. Alvarez was arrested at 6 a.m. Sunday after a 14-hour manhunt that shut down streets and involved hundreds of police officers, with helicopters overhead.


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Recorded on tape

Investigators collected footage from a security camera at the Nugent Square Apartments, on University Avenue and Weeks Street, that recorded the murder, according to building managers who turned over the tape to police late Monday afternoon.

A man can be seen crouched between two parked cars in the Weeks Street driveway, then jumping up and shooting May repeatedly when confronted, Ernesto Rodriquez said. The gunman then escaped through the Nugent Square parking lot, stumbling and dropping his keys along the way.

"He shot him in the face," Rodriguez said. "We saw it on the video, but you can only see some of (the suspect's) face."At 4 p.m. Monday, a fleet of squad cars raided a home on Sacramento Street, the namesake of the gang Alvarez belongs to, according to East Palo Alto police.

Sheriff's deputies would not comment on why they ransacked the small house or if they found any evidence.

A woman at the address, who declined to give her name, said she had often complained to police about Alvarez's clashes with her children.

Alvarez was reportedly in a fight at the taqueria Saturday night — the event which prompted May's arrival on the scene.

Residents described the "Sac Street Gang" as an informal, multiracial group of thugs who claim the territory for selling drugs.

However, they also said the gang had been less active in recent years, with most members imprisoned.

"They're still selling drugs here, but not like it used to be," said Gerald Bollier, a local handyman.

Police were reluctant to give details about the gang's history for fear of jeopardizing the case or boosting its membership.

The East Palo Alto Police Department will continue to work with the county gang task force, which formed this year in response to an increase in violence in the South County, said Capt. Donald O'Keefe of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.

Last fatal shooting

The last East Palo Alto police officer to die in the line of duty was Joel Michael Davis, 26, shot by Ronald Price on June 1988. After a five-month trial, the jury convicted Price of first-degree murder and sentenced him to life in prison without parole. Davis' photo and a commemorative plaque hang in the Police Department headquarters; May will get a similar memorial, city officials said. 

May's death marked the first homicide of 2006 for the 2.5-square-mile city of 32,000 residents. There were 15 murders in 2005, most of them gang-related, police said.

While mourning May, East Palo Alto residents said they won't allow violence to stop them from pursuing crime-prevention efforts, such as organizing afterschool programs and petitioning the city to increase neighborhood patrols.

"We're trying to clean up this town," said Francisco Luna, who lit a candle at the makeshift University Avenue memorial with his toddler, Andrs. "(May) was taking care of us. He was watching out for us, and look what happened."

Officers from the California Highway Patrol, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and other agencies were handling law enforcement duties in East Palo Alto on Monday, to give the city's police officers time to mourn May's loss.

The East Palo Alto City Council held a moment of silence Monday night, and made plans to offer a statement in May's honor at today's 7:30 p.m. meeting at City Hall, 2415 University Ave., East Palo Alto.

Alvarez is scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. today at the San Mateo County Hall of Justice, 400 County Center, Redwood City.

Staff writer Malaika Fraley contributed to this story.

Staff writer Nicole Neroulias can be reached at (650) 306-2427 or nneroulias@sanmateocountytimes.com.

Remembering Richard May

Public viewing: A viewing open to the public will be held Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. at Spangler Mortuaries Menlo Park Chapel, 650 Live Oak Ave.

Memorial service: A memorial service has been scheduled for noon Thursday at the HP Pavilion, 525 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose. A memorial procession will commence from East Palo Alto. Information on the procession staging area will be released at today's East Palo Alto City Council meeting.

For more information, call the East Palo Alto Community Information Line at (650) 853-3116.

Trust fund: The East Palo Alto Police Officers Association has established the May Family Trust Fund. Contributions to the fund will go directly to the May family to assist them in their time of grief. Please make all donations payable to the May Family Trust Fund, account no. 458233826, and send to: San Mateo Credit Union, P.O. Box 910, Redwood City, CA 94063.

Donations can also be made in person at the credit union's office, 525 Middlefield Road, Redwood City.

In the line of duty

Bay Area officers killed in the line of duty since 1990

Jan. 7, 2006: East Palo Alto officer Richard May, 38, shot by suspected gang member.

July 25, 2005: San Leandro police officer Nels "Dan" Niemi, 42, shot while responding to distrubance call.

April 25, 2005: Pittsburg police officer Larry Lasater, 36, shot by a robbery suspect.

July 22, 2004: Oakland police officer William Seuis, 39, killed in hit-and-run while on motorcycle patrol.

April 10, 2004: San Francisco police officer Isaac Espinoza, 29, shot by gang member.

April 15, 2003: Pittsburg police inspector Raymond Giacomelli, 46, shot by a murder suspect.

June 12, 2002: San Francisco police officer Jon Cook, 38, killed in car accident while responding to a call.

Oct. 28, 2001: San Jose police officer Jeffrey Fontana, 24, shot after making a traffic stop.

Jan. 11, 2001: Oakland police officer William Wilkins, 29, shot by two fellow officers in a case of mistaken identity.

April 12, 2000: Vallejo police officer Jeffrey Azuar, 50, shot by grand theft suspect.

Jan. 11, 2000: San Francisco police officer James Dougherty, 56, and inspector Kirk Brookbush, 49, killed in helicopter crash.

Oct. 25, 1999: San Jose police officer Desmond Casey, 38, killed in helicopter crash.

Jan. 10, 1999: Oakland police officer James Williams Jr., 41, shot by freeway overpass sniper.

Dec. 12, 1998: Alameda County Sheriff's deputy John Monego, 33, shot during armed robbery of Dublin restaurant.

April 25, 1998 Millbrae police officer David Chetcuti, 43, shot by stopped motorist on Highway 101.

Jan. 7, 1998: California Highway Patrol officer Scott Greenly, 31, hit by speeding car during a traffic stop in Santa Clara County.

Aug. 16, 1995: Peralta Community College District police Lt. Herbert Stovall, 60, shot in struggle with suspected burglar at Oakland's Laney College.

July 8, 1995: Oakland police officer Keith Konopasek, 32, shot while searching suspects car.

May 9, 1995: Department of Justice special agent William R. Bolt, 48, killed in head-on car crash.

April 14, 1995: Oakland Unified School District police officer Timothy Howe, 34, shot after making a traffic stop.

Nov. 14, 1994: San Francisco police officer James L. Guelff, 38, shot by crazed gunman.

June 22, 1994: Oakland police officer Miguel T. Soto, 43, shot outside his patrol car.

May 15, 1994: Palo Alto police Reserve Officer Ted H. Brassinga, 33, of Redwood City, shot by Mountain View officer during training exercise.

Dec. 15, 1993: Oakland police officer William B Grijalva, 41, shot during confrontation over pit bull.

Dec. 28, 1992: Richmand police officers David T. Haynes, 30, and Leonard W. Garcia, 31, are shot by a man threatening his ex-wife and child.

Oct. 20, 1991: Oakland police Officer John W. Grubensky, 32, dies trying to save residents during the Oakland Hills fire.

Sept. 12, 1990: Santa Clara County Sheriff's deputy Paul R. Bush, 37, shot during traffic stop.

April 14, 1990: San Francisco police commander Isiah Nelson III, 40, killed in motorcycle crash.