RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Police scoured a Southern California park for clues Monday as they searched for a truck driver accused of gunning down an officer who chased him into a park after what should have been a routine traffic stop.
Authorities said the gunman, wearing dark clothing, drove off in the cab of an 18-wheeler after a shootout with Riverside Officer Ryan Bonaminio, who had pulled him over because his truck was apparently involved in a hit-and-run accident near a state highway. The cab did not have a trailer attached.
Gov. Schwarzenegger issues statement on Calif. cop's death
By PoliceOne Staff
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued the following statement during the search for a big-rig trucker accused of fatally shooting Riverside Police Officer Ryan Bonaminio:
"Maria and I, on behalf of all Californians, extend our sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of Officer Ryan Bonaminio as they mourn this tragic loss. Every day our law enforcement officials go to work to protect their communities, never knowing the dangers that may arise. Officer Bonaminio went above and beyond the call of duty his entire life, first serving in uniform to defend our nation's freedoms and here at home to protect the people of Riverside. His courage and dedication in the line of duty will be remembered forever."
Officers found a cab that might have been the getaway vehicle Monday, though they were still trying to confirm that, said Riverside assistant police chief Chris Vicino. They were trying to determine the shooter's identity.
Bonaminio, 27, was on patrol in this Los Angeles suburb late Sunday 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. The four-year member of the police department and Iraq war veteran died at a hospital.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered flags flown at half-staff at the state Capitol in his 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.
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," police Chief of Police Sergio Diaz said.
He was the second Southern California policeman killed in the line of duty in the past two weeks.
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San Diego officer Christopher Wilson, 50, was killed in a shootout on Oct. 27 as officers served an arrest warrant at an apartment.