Scales & Gavel 1.jpgThe murder trial of a man accused of killing a San Francisco police officer while fleeing several robberies in a stolen van four years ago got under way this morning in San Francisco Superior Court.

On July 26, 2006, Steven Petrilli was allegedly driving a stolen silver van being chased by police after four robberies earlier that night when he ran a stop sign in the city’s Portola District and crashed into Officer Nick-Tomasito Birco’s patrol car.

The crash happened at about 1 a.m. at Cambridge and Felton streets. Birco, who was not part of the original chase, had been responding to assist when his patrol car was struck and careened into a utility pole.

Petrilli was arrested at the scene along with two other men and a woman in the van.

Birco, 39, a five-year veteran of the police force assigned to the Bayview Station, was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Petrilli, now 24, is facing several charges including murder, conspiracy, robbery, vehicular manslaughter in the commission of a crime, and flight from a police officer causing death.

Opening statements in the trial began this morning. Prosecutors are asking jurors to convict Petrilli of first-degree murder.

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