Thousands paid their final respects Tuesday to slain Riverside police Officer Ryan P. Bonaminio.
Funeral services for the 27-year-old, who was ambushed and gunned down Nov. 7, allegedly while pursuing a suspected truck thief, began at about 10 a.m. at Grove Community Church, 19900 Grove Community Drive.
The Rev. Tom Lance will offer a eulogy, followed by remarks from the officer's family and friends.
According to police officials, several thousand law enforcement officers from across the state and country attended the service, along with representatives from the city and county of Riverside.
Huge photos of Bonaminio, including one in his uniform, hovered over the stage, flanked by rows of seated brothers-in-arms. Police from other cities were working in Riverside on Tuesday so the department could attend the memorial.
Military colleagues hailed Bonaminio's service as a police officer, both in Riverside and as part of the Army's 314th Military Police Company, where he earned the nickname "Bondo" because his sergeant got fed up with his long last name.
He was always upbeat and smiling, despite temperatures in Iraq that reached 155 degrees, unpalatable meals and sleeping in the sand for days on end without showers, his fellow soldiers said. Through it all, Bonaminio kept a huge smile on his face, boosting the other soldiers' spirits, said Doug Spencer, who served with him in Iraq in 2003 and carpooled with him to weekend training sessions before deployment.
"I never understood it, but if you've ever met Ryan, you understand it. That was his way, to support me, to support the other troops that were there," Spencer said of Bonaminio's smile. "We made a pact. The pact was to come home alive, to watch each other's backs, to help with everything _ just to cope with everything over there. Having Ryan by my side in Iraq is what brought me home."
Once Bonaminio returned, he enlisted in the Riverside police force, something he had always planned to do. Police who knew him on the force lauded his courage, dedication, humility and his commitment to the community where he grew up. Chief Sergio Diaz urged the other officers to follow their fallen colleague's example and never forget his sacrifice.
"Ryan has taught us how to live," Diaz said, choking back tears. "Today we bury Ryan's physical body, tomorrow we take the mourning bands off our badges and we will get on with our work. And it will be a shame on us if we pass on the opportunity to be inspired by Ryan's example."
After the funeral, Bonaminio's remains will be taken to Riverside National Cemetery, under the escort of a military and police honor guard.
The procession will head northbound on Barton Road to Grove Community Drive, then east to Abrams Street, turning south to Orange Terrace Parkway, and finally to Van Buren Boulevard, which leads to the cemetery.
The entire route is about four miles.
Charges Filed Against Shooting Suspect
On Monday, Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco announced that murder and other charges were filed against 44-year-old Earl Ellis Green for Bonaminio's death.
"It is fair to say that this defendant took advantage of the circumstances to ambush Officer Bonaminio," Pacheco said. "Mr. Green clearly, from the evidence, thought about the murder ... Officer Bonaminio pleaded for his life before he was murdered. This defendant ignored those pleas and shot him. He could have run. He could have kept going. Instead he turned, grabbed the gun and shot him."
Green may have used the officer's own sidearm to kill him. The firearm was recovered during a search warrant executed last week at one of three locations associated with the ex-con, according to police.
Bonaminio was chasing Green through Fairmount Park, near Market Street and the Moreno Valley (60) Freeway, following a hit-and-run accident that the Rubidoux man was apparently responsible for. He was allegedly driving a stolen big rig at the time.
Court records show that Green has convictions going back 20 years, including for battery on a police officer in 1990.
His latest conviction, in 2007, was for vandalism, and he was sentenced to three years in prison. He could have faced even more time, but the judge dismissed several of his prior convictions.
Joe Bonaminio, the slain officer's father, told reporters Monday that he did not believe the defendant should be "breathing the same air as you and I right now."
"I want justice for my son," he said. "I don't care for this guy spending the next 40 years in a cell. I really don't care for that idea. If he has to be incarcerated, like the rest of his life, I would like to see him spend the rest of his life in Abu Ghraib (prison for enemy combatants) in Iraq. I can assure you, the prison time he spends here is going to be the Beverly Hills of prisons. Abu Ghraib is not a place he'd want to go to. And to me, that would be the ideal place for him."
Bonaminio, a U.S. Army veteran who served two tours in Iraq with a military police unit, was the first Riverside police officer to be killed in the line of duty since January 2001. The Riverside native joined the police force in 2006 while still in the Army reserves.