In the early morning hours of July 26, 2006, San Francisco Police Officer Nick Birco (39) was killed when his patrol car was struck by a vanload of armed robbery suspects.
At approximately 12:30 a.m. police received a call from the victim of a robbery. The man had been waiting for a bus in the 500 block of Bayshore Boulevard when he was punched in the face and robbed. The victim accompanied responding officers in a search of the area to look for the suspects and vehicle. Officers located the suspect vehicle, noting that the license plate matched that of a stolen vehicle broadcast earlier. As officers approached, the suspects fled the scene.
With officers in pursuit, the van sped northbound on Cambridge where it ran a stop sign and struck the rear quarter-panel of Officer Birco’s patrol car. The impact of the crash caused Birco’s car to spin 360 degrees, striking a power pole before landing on its side. Officer Birco was rushed to San Francisco General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead after doctors could not revive him.
Four suspects were arrested after the stolen van they were driving crashed. They are identified as Carl Lather (21), Nicolas Smith (21), Steven Petrilli (19), and Jessica Chamberlain (20). Petrilli is a recidivist criminal who, at the time of this incident, had two pending felony charges against him. First degree murder charges have been filed by the SFDA’s office.
On August 2, 2006, Officer Nick Tomasito Birco was laid to rest. Much of central San Francisco was shut down to traffic as over 2,000 people – friends, family, and fellow law enforcement officers from throughout California and beyond – paid their respects at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Mayor Gavin Newsom greeted the Birco family at the church and walked in with them, following the casket, pallbearers, and honor guard.
Gary Delagnes, President of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, said the world contains three kinds of people. Most are sheep, he said, unaware of the dangers in life. Some are wolves, preying on the sheep. The third, he said, are sheepdogs, dedicated to the safety of the flock. Birco, he said, and all the officers at St. Mary’s are sheepdogs. “Nick Birco chose the path of honor, dedication, and courage,” Delagnes said. Turning to the Birco family he said, “You must be so proud of the man you raised.”
Family and friends described Birco as a funny and friendly guy with an easy smile. His nickname, “St. Nick” was earned from dressing up as Santa Claus at Christmas and because of his generosity.
Officer Birco was born in the Philippines and moved with his family to the United States when he was 4 years old. He grew up in San Francisco, spent four years in the Marines serving in the Persian Gulf, and at the age of 34, joined the San Francisco Police Department.
During his 5-year career with SFPD, Officer Birco was awarded a Police Commission Commendation and 11 Captain Complimentary awards. He also received two letters from citizens impressed with his level of service and professionalism.
Birco is survived by his parents, Tomasito and Zenaida Birco; sisters Christine Bryant and Holly Birco; two nephews and a niece.
Donations in memory of Officer Birco can be sent to the Police Credit Union, 2550 Irving St., San Francisco, CA 94122, and made payable to the Nick Tomasito Birco Fund, account No. 1365645.