Questions accompany Tuvera funeral 

Law enforcement officials from around California and beyond stood solemnly at attention in the chilly air outside St. Mary’s Cathedral as San Francisco police Officer Bryan Tuvera’s body arrived Friday morning.

But the tears were barely dry on their cheeks before many were questioning the system that allowed a convict to escape from a minimum-security work camp and remain on the lam for over a year.

Tuvera, 28, a four-year department veteran, was shot in the head at about 8:30 p.m. Dec. 22 as he and his partner chased a suspect through the Sunset district. After they cornered Marlon Ruff, 33, in a garage on 25th Avenue, Ruff turned and opened fire on the officers, hitting Tuvera. Tuvera’s partner fired back, killing Ruff.

Tuvera died at 12:01 a.m. Dec. 23, exactly 12 years after his father, Benny Tuvera, a San Francisco police dispatcher, had passed away.

On Friday, hundreds of elected officials, family and uniformed police officers stood somberly outside St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco before Tuvera’s funeral service. State Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who gave the first eulogy, said attending the funerals of peace officers was the hardest part of his job.

"Somehow or another we’ve got to figure this out. We’re losing too many noble, bright people like Bryan Tuvera," he said.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, police Chief Heather Fong, Police Officers Association President Gary Delagnes and POA Vice President Kevin Martin, as well as Tuvera’s cousin Steven Leonard also spoke.

Ruff, who was convicted of robbing and beating a Brink’s armored car employee on Sept. 8, 2003, walked away from a minimum security California Department of Corrections labor camp in 2005. Tuvera and his partner were attempting to serve a warrant on him when he opened fire, according to police reports.

It is the second time this year a San Francisco police officer was killed in the line of duty by a criminal. Officer Nick-Tomasito Birco was killed when robbery suspect Steven Petrilli allegedly crashed the van in which he was fleeing police into Birco’s patrol car. Petrilli was out on bail from a previous arrest at the time of that incident.

Delagnes invoked the memory of slain San Francisco police Officer Isaac Espinoza, whose family attended the funeral. Espinoza was shot by an admitted gang member Easter weekend 2004. The suspect, David Hill, stood trial over the past two months. The jury is resuming deliberations in his case next week.

"As we have waited for over two years for the conviction of one cop’s killer, we have lost three others," Delagnes said, referring to three officers that have died this year.

On Thursday, at a vigil for Tuvera, Martin indicated that Ruff, convicted of a strong-arm robbery, had been improperly incarcerated in a program for nonviolent offenders.

"Robbery is certainly a crime of violence… He [Ruff] punched him [his victim] in the head at least a couple of different times."

Police Commissioner David Campos said Friday that, while he supports the work program from which Ruff escaped, the state needs to re-evaluate how it decides to send criminals there.

Family, friends remember policeman as witty prankster

Bryan Tuvera was a dedicated policeman, highly organized and driven to succeed, and an incorrigible prankster with a razor wit and wicked sense of humor.

That’s the picture that emerged as family and friends spoke in his memory at a vigil Thursday night and at his funeral Friday morning.

The officer with the youthful face and the massive comic-book collection took his job extremely seriously. With just four years in the department, he was already starting to see his star rise as his superiors noticed his top-notch work.

Tuvera loved superhero comic books and professional wrestling, his mother, Sandy Tuvera, remembered Thursday. As a child in South San Francisco, he called himself Batman. "I wasn't the least surprised when he decided to become a police officer," she said.

Tuvera’s father, Ben Tuvera, was a police dispatcher who died of a heart attack at 50, exactly 12 years before Bryan Tuvera.

Bryan Tuvera’s wife of three months is also a police officer, whom Tuvera met while serving his probational year at Park Station.

He loved his family dearly, Sandy Tuvera said, but terrorized them with pranks. Once, he set Sandy Tuvera’s clock ahead while she was in the shower, causing her to think she was late. Since then, she said, she still carries a watch into the bathroom with her.

Tuvera was meticulous, his mother said, reading his thousands of comics only once, carefully, and then sealing them in Mylar and storing them in boxes. He also kept the house clean and even absentmindedly organized his papers as he held conversations, she said.

"He was organized, almost compulsively, which we love," said Capt. Keith Sanford, who heads Taraval Station where Tuvera was assigned. Sanford said that when he asked a lieutenant which officers would be good candidates for a new plainclothes detail, the lieutenant instantly suggested Tuvera and his partner.

Tuvera’s cousin, Steven Leonard, said Tuvera liked having a good guy and a bad guy, as portrayed in his beloved comic books. Leonard said that, on Dec. 22, "You were Hulk Hogan. You were Superman. You were our hero."

amartin@examiner.com

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