Suspected Calif. police killer charged with murder

A convicted felon accused in the ambush shooting death of a Southern California police officer was charged Monday with murder, vehicle theft and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Earl Ellis Green, 44, of Rubidoux also faces special circumstance allegations in the death of Officer Ryan Bonaminio that could make him eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco said he will make a decision about seeking the death penalty within two weeks, after a team of investigators looks into the defendant's background.

A judge postponed Green's arraignment until next month after the public defenders office requested time to have him evaluated by a psychotherapist. The public defender also asked the judge to impose a gag order on the prosecution.

Riverside Superior Court Judge Roger Luebs set a Nov. 30 hearing on that issue and sealed search warrant affidavits in the case until then.

A call to the public defenders office was not immediately returned Monday.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Hestrin declined to comment after the hearing.

Police said it appeared Bonaminio, 27, was ambushed Nov. 7 after he pulled over the driver of a stolen big-rig cab and was led down a dark path into a park. Green may have used the officer's gun, police said.

Green hit Bonaminio several times with a metal bar before taking his service weapon, Pacheco told The Associated Press.

"The officer was pleading for his life when he shot him," the prosecutor said, citing witness accounts.

Pacheco believes the attacker chose to take the life of the officer.

"He could have run, he could have taken off, he could have gotten out of there safely, but he clearly decided he had to murder this guy," the prosecutor said.

Investigators said a fingerprint on the abandoned truck led them to Green, who was arrested at a Riverside shopping center.

Green has served time for vehicle theft, receiving stolen property and battery on a police officer, and was sentenced to three years in prison in 2007 for committing vandalism that caused more than $400 in damage.

Bonaminio was born and raised in Riverside, a city of 300,000 people 60 miles east of Los Angeles. He returned to his hometown to be a police officer after serving Army tours in Iraq and Germany.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday for Bonaminio, who will be buried in Riverside National Cemetery.