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Defense attorney says client murdered Riverside police officer

The trial of Earl Ellis Green begins with the prosecutor describing the killing of Officer Ryan Bonaminio. Defense attorney says Green shot Bonaminio without premeditation and so does not deserve the death penalty.

May 01, 2012|By Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times
  • Earl Ellis Green's trial in the killing of a Riverside police officer began Monday.
Earl Ellis Green's trial in the killing of a Riverside police officer… (Riverside Police Department )

Earl Ellis Green shot and killed Riverside police Officer Ryan P. Bonaminio on a chilly night in a church parking lot in November 2010 — that much will not be disputed in the trial that opened Monday in Riverside.

"Earl Ellis Green murdered Officer Bonaminio,'' defense attorney Gail O'Rane told the jury, moments after prosecutor Michael Hestrin laid out a chilling account of the officer's final moments.

The slaying, O'Rane argued, was not premeditated, and does not merit a first-degree murder charge that carries a potential death penalty, which is being sought by prosecutors.

The defense offered little hint of how it will make its case, saying only that Green's "mental state" would be critical to his defense.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, offered graphic, minute-by-minute details of the slaying.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is a case about brutality and cruelty,'' Hestrin told the jury in his opening statement.

Hestrin said Green, a 46-year-old convicted felon on parole, jumped out of a stolen truck that was being pursued by police after a report that it had been involved in a hit-and-run. He then ran into Riverside's Fairmount Park, ending up in the staircase of the adjacent Center for Spiritual Living.

Bonaminio, 27, followed, shouting for Green to stop. When the officer slipped in the mud near a stairwell, Hestrin said, Green emerged and bludgeoned the officer with a metal pipe. 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, 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 Monday.

"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.''

The prosecutor, in his opening statement, 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.''

Hestrin laid out a summary of the evidence: Bonaminio's gun, which later showed traces of the officer's blood and DNA, 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.

On Monday, Charman Robinson positively identified Green as the man who nudged her car near the 60 Freeway and Market Street. Green sat silently throughout the testimony, wearing a pressed gray suit, his legs shackled.

The trial before Judge Jean P. Leonard is expected to last at least two weeks.

Bonaminio's mother and father watched from the back of the courtroom, surrounding by family and friends, all of whom declined to comment.

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