A San Mateo County Superior Court judge sentenced 26-year-old Alberto Alvarez to death by lethal injection for killing East Palo Alto police Officer Richard May in 2006.
"The circumstances of the murder were particularly savage and brutal," Judge Craig Parsons said before imposing the sentence. "Death is warranted."
Alvarez's case will be automatically appealed to the state Supreme Court, as is every death penalty case in California. Legal experts say the appeals will take at least 25 years.
Scott Peterson was the last person to be sentenced to death in San Mateo County Superior Court after he was found guilty in 2004 of murdering his wife Laci and their unborn child.
Alvarez, who was found guilty in November of first-degree murder with the special circumstance of killing a peace officer for the execution-style shooting of May, showed no emotion and declined to make a statement at this morning's sentencing.
Had Judge Craig Parsons not condemned Alvarez to death, he would have faced life in prison without the chance of parole.
May was killed the afternoon of Jan. 7, 2006, after he responded to a report of a fight at a taqueria on University Avenue in East Palo Alto.
He had followed Alvarez from the area of the taqueria to nearby Weeks Street, where the two exchanged gunfire. May was hit and fell to the ground.
Alvarez then fired two additional shots at May, including a fatal shot to the head.
When testifying in the trial, Alvarez claimed he shot May in self-defense.
Parsons ordered Alvarez to be transferred to death row at San Quentin State Prison within 10 days.
Alvarez's defense attorney Eric Liberman said outside the courtroom that his client "seems to be holding up all right."
"He's always been remorseful for the hurt and damage he's inflicted," Liberman said. "The very night this happened, he called people and expressed he had done something that would alter his life forever."
May's wife Diana May said after the sentencing that she doesn't believe Alvarez has ever shown any remorse.
"I don't think he is capable of feeling what a normal person does," she said. "He doesn't have a conscience."
May's stepfather Frank Merrill said he hopes Alvarez will "take responsibility for what he's done."
"Unfortunately his death will be humane, unlike May who had to look down the barrel of a gun," Merrill said.
"This is a message in San Mateo County that when you execute a police officer, you get the maximum punishment," prosecuting attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.