Man accused of killing police officer to stand trial in fall

The man accused of killing East Palo Alto police Officer Richard May will stand trial Sept. 2, more than 2½ years after the deadly shooting took place near an East Palo Alto taqueria.

“It’s a big relief,” said Diana May, the slain officer’s widow. “I’m ready to get this trial going and get it behind us. Obviously it’s not going to bring my husband back, but I feel like I’m in limbo until this trial gets going.”

Richard May, 38, died of gunshot wounds Jan. 7, 2006, after he responded to reports of a fight near University Avenue and chased a suspect seen fleeing an eatery. May allegedly exchanged gunfire with Alberto Alvarez about a half-block from the restaurant and sustained several wounds, including one to the head, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Alvarez was arrested the next morning while hiding in the back seat of a car trying to leave the area; he pleaded not guilty to murder and weapons charges Feb. 7, 2006, and again on Aug. 30, 2006, after a county grand jury indicted him. He remains in custody on a no-bail status.

Attorneys for Alvarez, 24, had refused to set the trial date until Wednesday, when they received 300 pages of new data, including DNA and forensic information and photographs taken from a witness’s window, said Eric Liberman, Alvarez’s attorney. Defense attorneys also gathered new information regarding use-of-force procedures from the Lompoc Police Department, where May served for 13 years before joining the East Palo Alto Police Department in April 2004.

Transcripts from the grand jury investigation have been sealed and Alvarez’s attorneys will return to court May 19 to keep them and other evidence suppressed, Liberman said.

“Our desire has been to obtain a fair jury, which we thought would be more difficult given the fact that … the grand jury by nature is one-sided,” Liberman said.

Alvarez’s attorney said part of the defense will likely focus on “potential use of force issues surrounding the initial contact with Mr. Alvarez,” he said.

The District Attorney’s Office has not determined whether it will seek the death penalty for Alvarez, but expects to make a decision within a month, Wagstaffe said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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