RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Opening statements are slated for today in the trial of an ex-con accused of beating and gunning down a Riverside police officer.
Earl Ellis Green could face the death penalty if convicted in the Nov. 7, 2010, slaying of 27-year-old Officer Ryan Patrick Bonaminio.
Jury selection in the case concluded Thursday following two weeks of questioning nearly 300 prospects. The prosecution and defense requested that the panel of 18 jurors -- including six alternates -- not be sworn in until this morning, after which testimony will begin.
Green, 46, is charged with first-degree murder and special circumstance allegations of killing a peace officer and committing a murder to avoid arrest, as well as charges of vehicle theft and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He's being held without bail at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside.
The parolee allegedly killed Bonaminio after the officer attempted to arrest him on suspicion of fleeing a hit-and-run crash. Investigators said the officer did not realize Green had allegedly stolen the vehicle involved in the collision and had no way of knowing the defendant's background before their confrontation.
The only eyewitness to the shooting, Stephen McQueen, testified at a March 2011 preliminary hearing that Bonaminio was chasing a suspect through Fairmount park when the lawman slipped trying to turn at the corner of a building, falling into a planter.
The groundskeeper said the suspect immediately pounced on the officer, striking him three times in the upper body with what appeared to be a pipe.
Green allegedly grabbed Bonaminio's sidearm and leveled it at the injured officer as he struggled to his feet, begging the defendant not to shoot, according to investigators.
McQueen testified that the assailant, whom he never identified in court, fired three shots, two of which struck the policeman in the face and head, causing him to collapse face first.
According to McQueen, the suspect fled through the park, jumped into a yellow big rig with no trailer and drove off.
Bonaminio, an Iraq War veteran, was found moments later by fellow officers and rushed to Riverside Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Green, who has a rap sheet spanning more than two decades, was identified through a fingerprint match, leading to his arrest outside a Target store in Riverside two days later.
Search warrants served at his Rubidoux residence at 5161 34th St. and another property led to the recovery of Bonaminio's .40-caliber Glock pistol, authorities said.
The trial is expected to last about eight weeks.