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Slain SFPD Officer Volunteered For Anti-Gang Unit

As you remember these fallen officers, take comfort in recalling that they dedicated their lives to the same principles of honor, duty and courage that brought you to the badge. Such a life is truly rich. Take strength in knowing that when an officer falls, our resolve to serve those in need is not diminished. Our dedication to protecting those in danger is not weakened. Our commitment to remembering those with whom we shared the badge does not fade.

Godspeed, brothers and sisters. You fought the good fight. Now rest in peace…

April 11, 2004

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Slain SFPD Officer Volunteered For Anti-Gang Unit

Officer Down: Isaac Espinoza - [San Francisco, ]

Young father was to celebrate wedding anniversary today

By Simone Sebastian and Demian Bulwa, The San Francisco Chronicle

Isaac Espinoza, the San Francisco police officer who was fatally shot in one of the city's roughest neighborhoods over the weekend, was to have celebrated his seven-year wedding anniversary today.

He leaves behind his wife, Renata, and a 3-year-old daughter.

On Easter Sunday, dozens of family and friends streamed into the Espinozas' tidy split-level house in South San Francisco, bearing gifts of flowers, food and boxes of tissues. The front door of the peach-colored house remained open all day, and so many grieving people arrived that they spilled onto the front lawn by early evening.

Espinoza, an eight-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department, was described by his family and colleagues as a dedicated officer.

"He's self sacrificing, very giving of himself, and that's why he became an officer," said his cousin, David Guillroy of San Leandro. "He never wanted anyone to stop him from helping others."

Guillroy said Espinoza was raised in Daly City and wanted to be an example for young people, making a difference in big and small ways. "He was always willing to help."

Capt. Rick Bruce of the Bayview Police Station said Espinoza signed up for one of the toughest assignments -- working as a plainclothes officer in the gang suppression unit in the Bayview Station, where the flag flew at half-staff Sunday.

It was in the Bayview on Saturday night that Espinoza was shot and killed by a man whom he and his partner had stopped for questioning. The man opened fire with an assault rifle before fleeing on foot.

Bruce said those bullets stopped a man who had had the willpower to return to the force after a severe injury. A few years ago, Espinoza was chasing a car-theft suspect when he jumped over a fence and shattered his knee. He was on medical leave for seven months, yet chose to return to the force as a plain-clothes officer.

Police colleagues said Espinoza had the right temperament to build rapport and trust in the gritty, bullet-raked streets of the Bayview. He worked in teams of two or three officers, roaming the streets in an unmarked Crown Victoria.

"It takes a very special kind of person," said Sgt. Paget Mitchell. "He would find out where the guns were coming from, who was selling guns. He took a lot of guns off of the street." Officer James Lewis, who had a locker six doors down from Espinoza's at the police station, said the young officer was upbeat despite the challenges of his job.

"He had an opportunity to leave, but he chose to stay here," Lewis said. "He had a deep commitment to the neighborhood -- he died trying to serve the community he worked in."

Chronicle staff writer Pamela J. Podger contributed to this report.

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