General Crime

* Alberto Alvarez Murdering Cop Killer Testified He Feared For His Life When He Shot East Palo Alto Police Officer Richard May In 2006

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In a near whisper, the man accused of fatally shooting East Palo Alto police Officer Richard May in 2006 testified in court today that the 38-year-old officer shot him first and that he was frightened.”It was happening real fast,” said Alberto Alvarez, 26, who took the stand in San Mateo County Superior Court in his own defense today. “I was scared for my life.”Prosecutors allege that Alvarez shot May first the afternoon of Jan. 7, 2006. Alvarez had gotten into a fight at a taqueria in East Palo Alto and May was one of the officers who responded. The shooting happened just minutes later and several blocks away from the taqueria.Alvarez has been charged with first-degree murder and, if convicted, could face the death penalty.Plastered to the bulletin board behind the witness stand was Alvarez’s booking photo from when he was arrested the morning after May was killed.The picture shows a chunkier and younger Alvarez. Today, his face is sunken, his skin gray and his body 70 pounds lighter. He has been in jail for nearly four years.At the time of the shooting, Alvarez had been on parole for several months and was not allowed to be in possession of a firearm.He testified today that he purchased his gun for $200 from a man at a pool hall in East Palo Alto because he needed protection.He said he was living in Redwood City and making a living by selling marijuana and methamphetamine in East Palo Alto.The morning of Jan. 7, 2006, Alvarez said he woke up at his girlfriend’s home, then went to various friends’ houses in East Palo Alto.He testified that around 3 p.m., he went to the Villa Taqueria on University Avenue where he ordered a steak meal, then went outside to buy some cotton candy before coming back into the restaurant.While he was eating, he said two men entered the restaurant and approached him.Alvarez said he didn’t know the two men, and that they “were walking toward me real fast.”He said he stood up, and one of the men started punching him. Alvarez said he punched back and the two fought for several minutes until a witness separated them.”I told them I was cool, and I was gonna leave,” Alvarez said. “I grabbed my stuff while they were holding the other guy down and left.”He headed out of the restaurant and was walking on University Avenue when he spotted a police car.He said he kept walking until the police car came to a stop, at which point Alvarez said he began running “because I had a gun on me.”Alvarez said he reached Weeks Street and ran toward the apartment gate to his friend’s home, to which Alvarez had a set of keys.He testified that the police car stopped in front of the apartment, and that May got out of the car and said, “I’d stop if I were you.”Alvarez didn’t stop and instead ran across the street to 579 Weeks St.As he was running across the street, Alvarez said May struck him twice with something, which he later learned was a tactical baton. “At that point I just kept running faster,” Alvarez said. He testified that he ran up the driveway and in between two parked vehicles.”That’s when I got shot,” Alvarez said.He testified he felt the bullet “rip” into his leg and he stumbled forward, fumbling for his gun. “I pulled out the gun with my left hand, turned around and started shooting back,” Alvarez said.He said he shot May “several times,” but could not count exactly how many. May, who was on the side of the driveway closer to the street, was struck by four bullets, including a fatal shot to the head.Prosecuting attorney Steve Wagstaffe spent much of the cross-examination asking about the circumstances surrounding the shooting.He said Alvarez, who had run to the back of the driveway while May was still at the front, fired at May. Limping from the one gunshot he received to his leg, Alvarez then shot May twice more as he tried to run from the scene, Wagstaffe said.Alvarez said that everything happened so quickly and that he hadn’t “decided” to do anything, like shoot May again.”Why did you shoot again?” Wagstaffe asked.”I didn’t see him fall,” said Alvarez. “I didn’t know if I hit him.” He said he panicked and didn’t know whether May was still alive.”He was still alive, wasn’t he? He was still moving, and he was trying to get up, wasn’t he?” Wagstaffe asked, his voice rising with each question. “You decided to finish him, didn’t you?””No, no, no,” Alvarez responded. “It wasn’t like I was trying to shoot him. I was just trying to shoot in his direction to stop him from shooting at me.”After the shooting,Alvarez said he went to his friend’s apartment, where he called his father and his girlfriend. He said he also called his landlord and asked him to return some money.The next morning, Alvarez said his friend had to go to work, and told Alvarez he couldn’t stay at the apartment. He said he would give Alvarez a ride, and Alvarez hid in the backseat while his friend tried to drive away.They hadn’t even made it off his friend’s street when they were stopped by police, who had established a perimeter in the area. Alvarez was taken into custody and has been held without bail ever since.The trial resumes Monday in San Mateo County Superior Court. Copyright © 2009 by Bay City News, Inc. Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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