Highly respected S.F. cop killed in Portola collision

With only five years on the job, San Francisco police Officer Nick-Tomastio Birco had collected a bevy of awards, letters of commendation and citizens’ praise.

The 39-year-old officer, who once delivered a woman’s baby on the street, was tragically killed Wednesday when a high-speed chase of robbery suspects ended after their van slammed into Birco’s vehicle.

The San Francisco native, who spent his entire career at the Bayview Police Station, was known for his professionalism and received a Police Commission Commendation in 2002 for his bravery in executing a search warrant for a man whose home had numerous firearms and ammunition.

Birco served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the first Gulf War and was honorably discharged. His parents, who live in South San Francisco, and his two sisters were “extremely upset” and unable to comment Wednesday, said Gary Delagnes, the president of the San Francisco Police Officers

Association.

News of Birco’s death hit the Bayview precinct hard Wednesday, as officers continue to struggle with the 2004 murder of Officer Isaac Espinoza, who was gunned down on Easter morning while working undercover.

Flags were flying at half-staff at the Bayview Police Station and plans for a memorial service were underway, according to an officer at the station, who said the station built a garden in Espinoza’s honor.

The incident that claimed

Birco’s life started at 12:35 a.m., when police received a call from a victim who was punched in the face and robbed at a bus stop on the 500 block of Bayshore Boulevard, police said. The victim accompanied officers, who found the vehicle a few blocks away.

But as the officers approached the van, which had been reported stolen, the suspects drove away. A pursuit followed down Interstate 280 south toward South San Francisco before turning back toward San Francisco.

San Francisco police Officer Maria Oropeza said the officer was responding to the chase, traveling eastbound on Felton Street, when his patrol car was struck. It spun out, hit the curb, flipped over and struck a utility pole, according to Oropeza.

Firefighters extricated Birco from his vehicle, started cardiopulmonary resuscitation and then transported him to San Francisco General Hospital.

Hospital staff continued “a valiant effort to save the officer’s life,’’ Oropeza said, but he died shortly after arriving.

Three men and one woman were arrested, according to police.

Residents in the normally quiet Portola neighborhood were cleaning up the mess left behind by the brutal collision Wednesday morning. Tattered yellow police tape blew by the flowers and candles people have left on the corner of Cambridge and Felton streets.

sfarooq@examiner.com

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