A Riverside police officer touches the casket of Officer Ryan Bonaminio at an outdoor memorial service at the Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010. Bonaminio was shot and killed Nov. 7 after he pulled over the driver of a stolen big-rig cab and was led down a dark path into a park.
A jury in Riverside has found Earl Ellis Green guilty of first-degree murder in the 2010 killing of Riverside police officer Ryan Bonaminio. Attorneys admit Green gunned down 27-year-old Riverside policeman Bonaminio, but they disputed the circumstances and motivation for the killing.
Green shot and killed Bonaminio after running from the scene of a late night hit-and-run crash involving a stolen truck. A homeless man who witnessed the killing says he saw Green strike Bonaminio in the head with a steel bar after the officer slipped and fell.
As the verdict was read, the courtroom was packed with family, friends, media and law enforcement.
During his closing statement, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Michael Hestrin said Green had severely injured the officer, but could have fled the scene at that point.
Instead, said the prosecutor, the 46-year-old ex-convict got a hold of Bonaminio’s pistol and shot the officer three times. Hestrin called the killing an execution. Investigators later found the weapon at the home of Green’s girlfriend.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Gail O’Rane asked jurors to consider Green’s state of mind at the time of the killing. She said he was troubled over financial problems and a conflict with relatives.
O’Rane asked the jury to deliver a verdict of second-degree murder, which would have spared Green the death penalty, but Green was instead convicted of special circumstances charges, which makes him eligible for the death penalty. Jurors will weigh that option during the penalty phase of the trial when they return Monday, May 21.
This story has been updated.