An ex-convict who ambushed a Riverside police officer at the end of a foot chase and shot him with his own weapon was convicted Friday of first-degree murder.
Earl Ellis Green, 46, faces a possible death sentence for the Nov. 7, 2010, slaying of 27-year-old Officer Ryan Patrick Bonaminio.
Green showed no reaction as the verdict was read, convicting him of first-degree murder, along with the special-circumstance allegations of killing a peace officer and committing a murder to avoid arrest, according to City News Service. Some of Bonaminio's relatives wept.
According to trial testimony, Green had stolen a semi-truck with no trailer from a Rubidoux facility that Sunday evening and got into a fender- bender with a motorist on Market Street, near the Pomona (60) Freeway.
The ex-con fled the accident scene, prompting the other driver to call police, at which point Bonaminio responded to the area and stopped Green adjacent to Fairmount Park, according to testimony.
Green jumped out of the truck, ran through the park and into the parking lot of the nearby Center for Spiritual Living on Ridge Road, according to testimony.
As Bonaminio caught up with the defendant, the officer lost his footing in a freshly watered planter next to the center and fell in the mud. The sole eyewitness to the shooting, Stephen McQueen, testified that Green immediately pounced on the lawman, smashing him in the head three times with a steel pipe.
Bonaminio was largely incapacitated by the blows, and Green could have used the opportunity to get away but instead went for the injured officer's .40- caliber Glock pistol, racking the semi-automatic firearm to ensure a bullet was chambered, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Mike Hestrin alleged.
According to testimony, Bonaminio struggled to his feet, put his hands in front of his face and shouted at Green, “Don't do it!''
Hestrin said the defendant fired two rounds, both of which missed, then approached to within two feet of Bonaminio and -- after a five-second pause -- fired a third shot into the top of the officer's head.
“This was an unspeakably violent and brutal act,'' Hestrin told jurors.
During the roughly two-week trial before Riverside Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard, the defendant's attorneys conceded that Green killed the officer, but argued it was second-degree murder, which would have ruled out a death sentence.
Hestrin described Bonaminio's death as “unspeakably violent'' and said the evidence was overwhelming that Green shot the patrolman at point-blank range.
“It was a cold-blooded, callous execution of a police officer who was just doing his job,'' the prosecutor said.
Green's public defender, Gail O'Rane, argued the 46-year-old parolee was acting on impulse and never planned to kill Bonaminio.
“Mr. Green is trying to get away,'' O'Rane said. “He is just reacting to the circumstances. If Mr. Green had been acting rationally, he would have gotten out of there.''
The dashboard camera in Bonaminio's police cruiser captured footage of Green climbing back into the truck after the shooting and driving away.
A penalty phase of trial will be held beginning May 21, with the eight-man, four-woman jury being asked to recommend a sentence of either death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.