California manhunt comes to fiery end

Crime | Angela Lu

California manhunt comes to fiery end

Christopher Dorner
Associated Press/Photo by Los Angeles Police Department, File

A 10-day saga involving an ex-cop out for revenge is believed to have come to a fiery end yesterday in Southern California. After a gunfight that killed one officer and wounded another, the cabin where Christopher Dorner was believed to be holed up, burst into flames and burned to the ground.

Police officials cautiously identified the charred remains found inside as Dorner but are waiting for confirmation before calling off a manhunt that eventually included almost every law enforcement officer in and around Los Angeles.

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For the past few days, police scoured the San Bernardino Mountains for the fugitive after finding his burnt out pickup truck in the area. Dorner allegedly killed two civilians and a police officer last week as revenge for being fired from the force in 2009. Police offered a $1 million reward for any information on Dorner, and citizens sent in 1,000 tips that had police searching every potential hiding place, from a San Fernando Valley hardware store to a hotel in Tijuana, Mexico. 

Instead, Dorner apparently spent the last few days hiding in a vacation cabin just across the street from a police command post. 

The beginning of the end came Tuesday when police got word that a man matching Dorner’s description had tied up two maids who came into his cabin, stole their car, and fled. One of the captives broke free to call 911, the Los Angeles Times said.  

Dorner, who allegedly stole the car at gunpoint, opened fire at the wardens, striking the car more than a dozen times. One patrol shot a high-powered rifle at the stolen car, causing it to careen off the road and crash in a snow bank. The suspect took off on foot, exchanging gunfire with San Bernardino County deputies before fleeing to another cabin.

From the cabin, the suspect fired at police, killing one deputy and wounding another. Local KCAL 9 reporter Carter Evans, reporting about 200 feet from the cabin, captured the gunfight on camera. For 10 seconds, the sound of gunfire filled the recording, then deputies ran toward Evans, yelling for him to move, before 20 more seconds of shooting. Evans was unharmed.

But it wasn’t the only time Tuesday that media got in the way of police work. Once the gunfight began, news helicopters circled overhead to get a visual on the cabin where he was hiding out. Police asked news stations to clear the skies over the area, so Dorner would not be able to track police movements, in case he had access to a television inside the cabin.

Later police asked media to stop tweeting about the manhunt, saying it was “hindering officer safety.” Some suspected Dorner was gaining intelligence on officers’ strategy in realtime through Twitter. The number of Twitter updates dropped off, especially as news coverage turned to the State of the Union, at 6 p.m.

In the meantime, SWAT teams surrounded the cabin and used an armored vehicle to break windows. The officers then lobbed tear gas canisters into the cabin and asked the suspect to “surrender or come out” over a loudspeaker. 

The armored vehicle started to tear down each of the cabin’s four walls. Before the last wall was taken down, a single shot was heard inside the cabin, and flames engulfed the structure.

No one emerged from the ruins, and hours later, investigators found a charred body in the basement. They also found a wallet and personal items, including a California driver’s license with the name Christopher Dorner, an official told The Associated Press.  

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said he did not consider the manhunt over until a body was recovered and identified as Dorner.

“It is a bittersweet night,” Beck told the Los Angeles Times. “This could have ended much better, it could have ended worse. I feel for the family of the deputy who lost his life.”

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