RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Authorities on Monday searched across Southern California and sought the public's help in finding a man who police say was pulled over in a stolen big-rig cab and then fatally shot an officer who chased him into a park.
Authorities said the gunman drove off in the cab after a shootout with Riverside Officer Ryan Bonaminio, who had stopped him late Sunday because his truck apparently was involved in a hit-and-run accident near a state highway.
Police were trying to determine the shooter's identity.
The cab, which had no trailer attached, was found Monday a few miles from the park where the shooting occurred, police said. It had been reported stolen from a rental lot.
Also Monday, authorities released a surveillance photo of the suspect, whom they say is in his mid-30s to mid-40s and is just over 6 feet tall with a slender build. They said the man was wearing a light-colored baseball cap and dark clothing and likely was armed with a handgun.
Bonaminio, 27, a four-year member of the department and an Iraq War veteran, was on patrol in this Los Angeles suburb when he pulled over the truck. The driver got out and Bonaminio chased him into nearby Fairmount Park. The two exchanged gunshots and at least one hit Bonaminio, Lt. Leon Phillips said.
Backup officers found him on the ground, and he was declared dead at a hospital.
Dozens of police cars and a helicopter escorted Bonaminio's body from the coroner's office to the mortuary. The department was planning a joint military and police funeral for the officer who had served two tours in Iraq in the Army's military police, Chief Sergio Diaz said.
"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?" Diaz told The Associated Press as he walked out of Bonaminio's family home.
It had been nine years since a Riverside officer was shot, the chief said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered flags flown at half-staff at the state Capitol in Bonaminio's honor.
Hours after the shooting, Bonaminio's patrol car remained outside the park's entrance as a helicopter hovered overhead and investigators had the area searched with metal detectors.
Yellow tape and patrol cars blocked access to the park, which was to remain sealed well into Monday afternoon as police continued looking for witnesses, Lt. Steve Johnson said.
Officers congregated on the edge of the 200-acre park that features tennis courts, picnic areas and a lake with pedal boats in Riverside, 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
Eight 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.
"Sometimes we win, sometimes we don't," said Bob Bowes, one of the volunteer treasure hunters called to the scene by police.
Bonaminio, who was born and raised in Riverside, is survived by his parents, a brother and sister.
He joined the Army after graduating from high school in 2000 and was a military police officer in Iraq and Kuwait. He also was with a support battalion in Germany.
"Officer Ryan Bonaminio's tragic death is a reminder to all of us in the law enforcement family that the supreme sacrifice of our service is also a cost borne by our loved ones, our families, and our community," Diaz said.
He was the second Southern California policeman killed in the line of duty in the past two weeks.
San Diego officer Christopher Wilson, 50, was killed in a shootout on Oct. 27 as officers served an arrest warrant at an apartment.