RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Ryan Bonaminio survived Army basic training, two tours in the Iraq War and a stint in Germany.
But the 27-year-old Riverside police officer was gunned down in a park in his own hometown.
Bonaminio's department spent Monday simultaneously mourning its first slain officer in nearly nine years and scouring the region for the suspected shooter, a man Bonaminio had pulled over while driving a stolen big-rig cab.
"The big part of this is, how does a young man survive two tours in a war zone and then come home to get murdered?" Chief Sergio Diaz told The Associated Press after walking out of Bonaminio's family home. "It's tragic and it's ironic all at the same time."
Dozens of police cars and a helicopter escorted Bonaminio's body from the coroner to the mortuary, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered flags flown at half-staff, and the department was planning a joint military and police funeral for next week.
The four-year department veteran was on patrol Sunday night when he pulled over a truck reportedly involved in a hit-and-run accident near a state highway.
The driver fled on foot into nearby Fairmount Park, Bonaminio gave chase, and he was shot. Backup officers found him on the ground, and he was declared dead at a hospital.
Police said the suspect drove away in the truck cab, which was found Monday a few miles from the park. It had been reported stolen from a rental lot.
Authorities released a surveillance photo of the suspect and sought the public's help in finding him. They said he is in his mid-30s to mid-40s and is just over 6 feet tall with a slender build. They said he had on a light-colored baseball cap and dark clothing and likely was armed with a handgun.
Investigators combed for evidence in the 200-acre park tennis courts, picnic areas and a lake with pedal boats, and searched the area for witnesses.
Members of the Riverside Treasure Hunter's Club helped them scour the fringe of the park and a nearby riverbed with metal detectors, hoping to find a gun. After a five-hour search, club members said officers found shell casings and they unearthed keys that may have belonged to Bonaminio, but no weapon.
Bonaminio was born and raised in Riverside, the suburb of 300,000 people 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
One of three children in his family, he joined the Army after graduating from high school in 2000. He went through basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri before serving as a military police officer in Iraq and Kuwait. He also served with a battalion in Hohenfels, Germany.
Retired Marine Sgt. Maj. Henry David, who taught Bonaminio during his four years in the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps at Ramona High School, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise Bonaminio was shy and small when he arrived as a freshman, and the M-14 rifle he carried "was about as big as he was."
But David said he watched Bonaminio grow and develop so much he thought he could have a career as a military officer.
"I tried to talk him into going to one of the academies," David said. "He just wanted to go into the Army and get out and be a cop."