Guilty verdict in slaying of Riverside police officer
A Riverside jury has reached a guilty verdict in the trial of Earl Ellis Green, who was accused of shooting Riverside police officer Ryan Bonaminio at point-blank range as the officer pleaded for his life.
The panel deliberated for about three hours before returning Friday with the guilty verdict on first-degree murder with special circumstances that would make Green eligible for the death penalty.
The trial began with defense attorneys acknowledging that Green had fired the shots that killed Bonaminio in a church parking lot in November 2010 after Green led the officer on a foot chase through a Riverside's Fairmount Park. The attorneys had aimed at a conviction on a lesser charge that would not carry the death penalty.
The 46-year-old convicted felon, then on parole, jumped out of a stolen truck that was being pursued by police after it had been involved in a hit-and-run, police officials said. Bonaminio, 27, followed Green into the park. When the officer slipped in the mud near a stairwell, Green emerged and bludgeoned the officer with a metal pipe, prosecutors told the jury. Green then took the injured officer's .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun and chambered a new round, according to the prosecution.
Stephen J. McQueen, a homeless man who volunteered at the church, told the jury that he saw the shooting unfold as he smoked a cigarette in the parking lot. Bonaminio, hands up, told the killer, "Don't do it. Don't do it,'' McQueen testified. "Then there was three shots. One shot did not seem to affect the officer at all,'' said McQueen, who did not see the suspect well enough to identify Green as the killer. "The next two, there was movement, and then the officer began falling.''
In his opening statement, prosecutor MIchael Hestrin said Green's first two shots missed the officer. Green then walked up to Bonaminio, on his knees at the time, and fired at the back of the officer's head from a foot or so away, Hestrin said. "His life and blood poured out of him,'' Hestrin told the jury.
"He died there, on the cold and dirty asphalt.''
Among the evidence presented at the trial was Bonaminio's gun, which later showed traces of the officer's blood and DNA, and was found in a closet inside the home of Green's girlfriend. Green's DNA was found on a beer can inside the big rig, which had been stolen from a Penske rental lot, and his fingerprints were lifted from electrical tape he apparently used when hot-wiring the rig.
Bonaminio's blood and DNA were found in the same truck, according to Hestrin. After the shooting, Green walked back to the truck and drove off, according to prosecutors, who played a video taken from the officer's patrol car that showed a man fleeing the truck as a voice shouted for him to stop, then getting back in the truck and leaving about two minutes later.
-- Phil Willon
Photo: Joseph Bonaminio, father of Riverside Police Officer Ryan Bonaminio, looks down during a 2010 news conference as Police Chief Sergio Diaz announces that Earl Ellis Green of Rubidoux, whose image is at left, was arrested on suspicion of murdering the officer. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times