Decade of mourning for slain officer’s kin

The family of slain Millbrae police Officer David Chetcuti, who was killed in the line of duty, is struggling for closure 10 years after the shooting.

Chetcuti, who was killed 10 years ago today, was one of just three on-duty officers slain in San Mateo County during the last 20 years. The other two were from the East Palo Alto Police Department.

Chetcuti responded to a call for assistance from a San Bruno police officer who had made a traffic stop on southbound U.S. Highway 101 just south of Millbrae Avenue on April 25, 1998. The driver had a high-powered rifle and exchanged gunfire with Chetcuti, who was shot more than a dozen times. Chetcuti died at the scene. He was 43.

Shortly after, police caught the driver, Marvin Sullivan, who has severe paranoid schizophrenia and allegedly confessed to the killing. After being ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial by a judge, Sullivan was sent to the Napa State Hospital for the mentally ill, where he will likely die, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, who tried the case.

Chetcuti’s late widow, Gail Chetcuti, helped introduce state legislation to allow county prosecutors to forcibly medicate mentally ill suspects to ensure they can stand trial.

San Mateo County prosecutors used the law to help convict Jerry Cabonce of stabbing and attempting to kill two San Francisco police officers in South San Francisco in 2003, Wagstaffe said. Cabonce, who also has severe schizophrenia, was forcibly medicated so he could stand trial.

Gail Chetcuti, who helped raise their three sons in Millbrae, died of cancer in 2004.

“She worked hard on [the legislation],” son Dave Chetcuti Jr. said. “She kind of wanted to see some sort of closure, which I don’t feel like she did ever get it.”

Chetcuti’s legacy also lives on through his family’s police work.

Dave Chetcuti Jr. works as a crime analyst at the Millbrae Police Department, his nephew, Kenneth Chetcuti, works as a South San Francisco police detective.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s been 10 years, it’s still fresh,” Kenneth Chetcuti said. “It’s a day you’ll never forget.”

Kenneth Chetcuti added that even with the new legislation and 10 years to heal, the slaying is still just as difficult to deal with.

“It’s not really any easier,” David Chetcuti said. “We always remember him, of course, every day; me and my family and members of the department that are still around, we all think about him.”

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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