Copyright 2006 The Chronicle Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
The 16-year-old police Explorer who witnessed the fatal shooting of East Palo Alto police officer Richard May spent hundreds of hours shadowing patrol officers and did the right thing by immediately calling in the shooting and describing the suspect, authorities said.
His description helped lead to the arrest Sunday of 23-year-old Alberto Alvarez, police said.
"He did what he was supposed to do," said John Richers, chief executive officer for the Boy Scouts Pacific Skyline Council, of which the boy is a member. "We're terribly proud."
The teen, whose identity is being withheld by authorities, had logged about 650 hours riding with police officers and responding to emergency calls during his 18 months in the program, said Officer Brian Frayer, the assistant adviser for the East Palo Alto Police Department's Explorers Program.
Richers said the Explorer was upset by the killing, but was not injured and is doing fine.
The teen had been riding with May on Saturday and was in the patrol car about 20 yards away from the scene of the shooting when he radioed for help.
"He explained what happened and what the suspect was wearing," Frayer said. "The slain officer's family is extremely grateful."
The Law Enforcement Explorers program, a division of Boy Scouts of America that has existed in various forms for several decades, trains male and female students from 14 to 21 years old for potential careers in law enforcement.
In a shortened version of the policy academy's basic training, the Explorers spend 100 hours over nine Sundays in physical drills, running obstacle courses, extinguishing controlled fires, learning defense tactics, and searching for evidence and victims in mock crime scenes.
After training, the Explorers are given uniforms and placed in the field with officers. They monitor the perimeters of crime scenes, direct traffic and log as many as 1,000 hours in ride-alongs.
Parents are required to sign release forms waiving the police department of liability in case of injury.
Explorers have been wounded and at least three have been killed nationwide in the past 25 years while serving in the program, sometimes after being mistaken for actual police officers.
A 16-year-old Explorer serving with the Los Angeles Police Department was shot and killed outside his home in 1999, possibly because of his involvement with the program.
There are about 350 Law Enforcement Explorers in the Pacific Skyline Council, which serves the greater Peninsula area.
"They want to get as close to the feel of what it's like to be in law enforcement as possible," said Richers, the Boy Scout executive.
There are no restrictions on what neighborhoods the Explorers can serve, but they cannot work after 11:30 p.m., Frayer said.
They also cannot participate in arrests, foot pursuits or undercover investigations.