Police delivered a holiday surprise this week to the only eye witness who testified at trial in the shooting death of a Riverside gunned down in a park.
Stephen McQueen's testimony in the 2012 trial helped bring Officer Ryan Bonaminio's killer to justice. McQueen, who does not have permanent housing, received four nights in a hotel and other holiday gifts, including a warm jacket, courtesy of the police association and others who wanted to recognize his courage.
"What he did for us and what he did for Ryan was very stand-up," said Riverside Sgt. Debbie Foy. "He didn't have to do that."
Foy reached out the police association after learning about McQueen's housing situation when he attended a memorial service for Bonaminio, shot and killed in what prosecutors described as an execution after a brief foot chase in a Riverside park. She wanted to make sure he had a warm place to spend Christmas, so she led a collection effort, gathering clothes, gifts cards and other items.
Foy also put up a collection evnvelope in the police department roll call room.
"I had thought he was still living in a home, and I found out (at the memorial) he was living in a church," Foy said. "I told him I would be back and he didn't see the last of me."
Comfort Inn provide a free room, where McQueen will spend four nights.
Having your own place was really special," McQueen said. "It has proven to be a very nice Christmas, a very giving one. It means everything."
McQueen witnessed the Nov. 7, 2010 beating and shooting of Bonaminio, who encountered parolee Earl Ellis Green during a traffic stop. Bonaminio, a 27-year-old Iraq War Army veteran, was attempting to arrest Green after he left the scene of a hit-and-run on Market Street.
A foot chase led through Fairmount Park and into the nearby Riverside Community Center for Spiritual Living on Ridge Road, where McQueen does matinenance work and other jobs. Bonaminio caught Green, but lost his footing and fell into the mud, according to prosecutors.
Green attacked, striking the officer with a steel pipe and grabbing his service weapon. Green shot him in the head at point-blank range.
McQueen's chilling testimony included the account of Bonaminio chasing Green through a dimly lit parking lot. He recalled Green immediately running over to attack Bonaminio after the officer slipped in mud.
He also told the jury about Bonaminio's last words, uttered when the attacker picked up the officer's gun. Bonaminio struggled to his feet with his hands in front of his face, palms toward the attacker, McQueen said.
"And he says, 'Don't do it! Don't do it!"' McQueen testified.
McQueen recalled what he witnessed on that violent night and how the tragedy changed his life.
"It added to my spiritual beliefs and really made me value life, more so," McQueen said. "It can just be over, right now. You never know. I did do something anybody else would do, hopefully."
Green was convicted of first-degree murder. The same eight-man, four-woman jury recommended that he be executed for the crime and a judge agreed.
Bonominio joined the Riverside Police Department after serving in the Army's 314th Military Police Company.
The park where he was killed was renamed in him honor.