A violent felon on parole from state prison was booked Wednesday on suspicion of fatally shooting a Riverside police officer — possibly with the officer's handgun — following a high-speed pursuit, authorities said.
Earl Ellis Green, 44, was arrested after police identified a fingerprint inside the stolen semi-truck that Officer Ryan P. Bonaminio was chasing before he was killed. If convicted of the charges, Green could face the death penalty, authorities said.
A team of police officers and FBI agents swarmed Green as he checked under the hood of his car in the parking lot of a Riverside Target store Tuesday night, startling customers. He was taken into custody, along with his girlfriend, who was questioned and released, police said.
Detectives later recovered Bonaminio's .40-caliber handgun during a search of Green's residence. Three rounds had been fired.
"It possibly could have been the gun used against our officer," said Det. Ron Sanfilippo.
Green's criminal record spans two decades, and includes at least 13 arrests in Riverside County and multiple convictions for spousal abuse as well as car theft, drug dealing, receiving stolen property and battery of a police officer.
"We have an awful lot of conversations about how much it costs to keep people in prison, and very little discussion about what it costs to let them out,'' Police Chief Sergio Diaz told reporters at an afternoon news conference. "This is what it costs to let people out with the blind hope that people will cure themselves, rehabilitate themselves. They don't.''
According to his state parole record, which was obtained by The Times, Green sported a number of gang tattoos, including one on his hand that says, "BK=Blood Killer." One of the conditions of his parole was to not associate with Crip gang members.
Joseph Bonaminio, the slain officer's father who appeared with Diaz at the news conference, said he wasn't surprised to learn that a violent convicted felon was walking the streets.
"I don't care who he is. I just want justice for my son,'' he said. "He shouldn't have been out on the street. But it's not surprising."
Bonaminio said his son, an Iraq war veteran who would have turned 28 on Thanksgiving Day, would have been proud of the job his fellow officers had done to catch his alleged killer. Ryan Bonaminio began his career with the department in 2006.
"He was a man of honor," his father said, "and I'm sorry that he's gone."
Green was paroled from state prison in February 2009 after serving over half of a three-year sentence for vandalizing a former girlfriend's property, according to court records. The girlfriend, reached in Moreno Valley on Wednesday morning, said she was too terrified of Green to comment about his arrest.
Green was living in a trailer in back of an isolated home owned by his uncle, Moses Green, in the working-class community of Rubidoux.
Police raided the home about 3 a.m. Wednesday, after Earl Green was in custody, setting off flash grenades and breaking the doors down, according to Green's cousin, who was inside with his son and girlfriend at the time.
The cousin, who declined to provide his name because he feared police retribution, said Earl Green had been living on the property for only a few months, and most of the family had little to do with him because of his shady past. Their uncle has been hospitalized for the last few weeks and was not home, he said.
The cousin said that on Saturday, Earl Green allegedly tried to attack a second uncle, Percy Green, at a family business in town, threatening to kill him.
"He came down and chased him around with a spear, and then chased him around with his vehicle, trying to kill my uncle," he said.
He said a report was filed with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. But a department spokesman could not confirm that the incident had been reported.
Police believe Green shot and killed Bonaminio on Sunday night after the officer pursued a stolen semi-truck believed to have been involved in a hit-and-run collision near the 60 Freeway.
The suspect jumped out of the big rig in front of Riverside's Fairmount Park. Investigators believe that Bonaminio chased the suspect on foot and was jumped, and possibly had his gun wrestled away, before he was shot. It's unclear if the officer fired his weapon before he was shot and mortally wounded.
"I do believe that this was an ambush,'' Diaz said. "That this individual led the officer down a path to hurt him and disarm him. That's not something a criminal with no experience does.''
Green's arrest came less than five hours after the chief announced at a Tuesday afternoon news conference that $390,000 in reward money had been raised for information leading to an arrest and conviction of Bonaminio's killer. That reward grew to $490,000 by Tuesday night.
The department also released a seven-second video of the suspect jumping into the big rig after the shooting and fleeing the scene.
But Sanfilippo said it was the physical evidence — not a tip from the public — that led to Green's arrest. Investigators were alerted Tuesday afternoon that one of Green's fingerprints was inside the cab of the stolen big-rig, and a citywide scramble to find Green quickly followed.
Once in custody, Green spoke at length with Sanfilippo and other detectives, but details of his statement were not released. Green is being held at the county's Robert Presley Detention Center in downtown Riverside without bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
Times staff writers Stephen Ceasar and Richard Winton contributed to this report.