RIVERSIDE, Calif. - The prosecution is expected to rest its case today in the trial of an ex-con accused of beating and gunning down a Riverside police officer at the end of a foot chase.
Earl Ellis Green could face the death penalty if convicted in the slaying of 27-year-old Ryan Patrick Bonaminio on Nov. 7, 2010.
The murder trial got under way last Monday, and closing statements could get under way as early as Wednesday.
Green's attorneys have admitted that the 46-year-old killed Bonaminio, but they dispute the prosecution's allegations of how and why it happened, arguing that the defendant should be convicted of second-degree murder, not first-degree.
Green is also charged with 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.
The sole eyewitness to the killing, Stephen James McQueen, testified last week that Bonaminio pleaded for his life just before he was shot, shouting at Green, "Don't do it! Don't do it!"
McQueen testified that he was relaxing by his car, having a cigarette in the parking lot of the Center for Spiritual Living on Ridge Road, adjacent to Fairmount Park, when he suddenly heard a man yelling "Stop, stop, stop!"
"I looked over my right shoulder and saw a man coming up over the embankment to my right, and he proceeds across the parking lot," McQueen said, adding that about four or five seconds later, a young policeman ran by, obviously chasing the suspect.
"The officer yelled, `Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands!"' McQueen testified.
He said the suspect -- whom he never identified -- ran behind a stairwell on the east side of the center, where the witness worked as a part-time groundskeeper.
McQueen testified that Bonaminio ran toward the stairwell but slipped in a planter freshly watered and muddy. The witness said the officer went down on one knee, with his rear-end in the mud.
"I saw (the suspect) come out from the stairwell a second later and swing something at the officer," McQueen told Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Mike Hestrin during questioning. "I guess it was a pipe. He swung it at the officer in three consecutive quick blows."
The witness said he could hear the impact of the pipe making contact with Bonaminio's face or head. The assailant then backed four to five feet away from the injured officer, who struggled to his feet with his palms toward the man, begging him not to shoot.
According to McQueen, the attacker fired three shots, two of which struck Bonaminio in the face and head, causing him to collapse face-first in the flower bed.
Prosecutors said Green jogged back to a yellow-colored semi truck -- with no trailer -- which he had allegedly stolen earlier that Sunday evening, and drove it back to the Rubidoux facility from which he'd taken it.
The defendant was stopped by Bonaminio on suspicion of fleeing a hit-and- run crash on Market Street, near the Pomona (60) Freeway, according to testimony. The officer had no idea the truck had been stolen.
Hestrin alleges Bonaminio was killed with his own .40-caliber Glock pistol.
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 girlfriend's Rubidoux residence at 5161 34th St. led to the recovery of Bonaminio's weapon, Hestrin said.