After a harrowing week, one of the biggest manhunts in California history is finally over.
San Bernardino County fire crews pulled a charred body out of the smoldering ruins of a cabin Wednesday in Seven Oaks. Two California Fish & Wildlife wardens are pretty sure that man was Christopher Dorner.
But as of press time, neither Los Angeles police nor San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials would confirm that the dead man inside that cabin was Dorner. Sheriff’s officials confirmed that there were indeed human remains found in that cabin, they just wouldn’t confirm that it was Dorner.
A positive identification on the body would only come after DNA testing and dental record checks, they said. See, an ex-cop like Dorner would have a long list of identifying physical characteristics, they said—DNA, teeth, fingerprints, tattoos, etc.
The dramatic end to the manhunt began about 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, when someone reported that Christopher Dorner had just stolen his car in the 1200 block of Club View Drive in Big Bear Lake.
Three California Fish & Wildlife wardens responded to the call, said department Lt. Patrick Foy. They spotted him driving the allegedly stolen vehicle, a purple Nissan he allegedly stole from two cleaning ladies, who found him inside a Big Bear Lake cabin where it’s believed he has been hiding since entering the Big Bear Lake area Feb. 7. He reportedly briefly held them hostage and tied them up before stealing their car. After he left, one of them got loose and called 911.
When the spotted the man they said was Dorner, they got close enough to recognize his face.
Of course, that meant they got close enough for him to spot them as well.
The wardens pursued the driver of that Nissan and at some point, he lost control of it, Foy said. Not long after, he hijacked another vehicle, a pickup truck.
The next time the wardens spotted him, Foy said, was when he drove that truck in the opposite direction, near the spot where Highway 38 meets Glass Road in Big Bear Lake. And as he passed, he opened fire on the wardens. He missed. They shot back and still not clear if they hit him, but they peppered the truck he drove, hitting it as many as 20 times.
By now, the media knew what was up—Christopher Dorner, Public Enemy No. 1, the guy everyone was looking for and talking about, was in the mountains, shooting it out with authorities.
The man assumed to be Dorner didn’t stop again until he got to Angelus Oaks, some 10 miles down Highway 38. Sheriff’s officials say he ditched the truck and fled into the forest and barricaded himself inside a cabin on 7 Oaks Road.
That’s where he started trading gunfire with sheriff’s deputies, according to department officials. During that exchange, two deputies were hit. They were quickly pulled out of the line of fire and airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center. One of those deputies was pronounced dead at 2:24 p.m., bringing Dorner’s alleged body count to four, two of those being law enforcement officers. Sheriff’s officials have not yet released that deputy’s name.
The other wounded deputy entered surgery and is expected to survive.
The firefight raged on before dying down, resulting in an hours-long standoff, with law enforcement officers surrounding the cabin from every angle. Late in the afternoon, a SWAT team fired tear gas into the cabin. It’s believed that the canister may have started the fire that burned the cabin to the ground.
Dorner—or at least the vehicle theft suspect, as officials are still calling him—never emerged from the cabin. As it burned, a single gunshot was heard. It’s not clear if that gunshot indicated the man inside the cabin took his own life or the round simply went off because of the extreme heat inside.
LAPD and sheriff’s department officials say they’re still on high alert until they’re certain the human remains found inside that cabin belonged to Dorner.
Cops everywhere started looking for Dorner last week, when he was named as the suspect in the Feb. 3 shooting deaths of 28-year-old Monica Quan and 27-year-old Keith Lawrence. The couple had recently gotten engaged, didn’t seem to have any enemies but for some reason, were found shot to death in Lawrence’s Kia.
Both were shot multiple times, but nothing in the car was disturbed, so police ruled out robbery as a motive. There was no evidence to suggest the happy couple met their end via murder-suicide.
A day later, investigators got their first solid lead—in the form of a rambling manifesto left on what police said was Dorner’s Facebook page. The manifesto was quickly taken down, but any reader armed with a cursory Google search can find it. It’s long. It says lots of things. But after it was posted and after police got their hands on it, they named Dorner as a person of interest in the deaths of Quan and Lawrence.
Quan, it turned out, was the daughter of Randy Quan, also an ex-LAPD officer who represented Dorner in 2008, when Dorner was fighting to keep his job. In his manifesto Dorner says he lost that fight in a hearing that ended with him being fired for making false statements against another officer. The department labeled Dorner as a bully, he wrote. He sees himself as whistleblower. In the end, he lost a job he really, really cared about.
Dorner claimed he reported his training officer when she allegedly kicked an arrestee in the face for no good reason back in August of 2007. As a result of his blowing the whistle (as he claims), he lost his job. If that’s true, it
Of course, just about all of the claims in Dorner’s manifesto have to be qualified with the phrase “if it’s true,” since killing innocent people can seriously undermine one’s credibility.
And Dorner’s got an explanation for all that, and to be clear, by, “all that,” I mean, “killing innocent people.”
He said because people like Randy Quan sold him up the river, Dorner said he would target them…and their families. Which explains the death of Quan’s daughter, Monica and her fiancee, Keith Lawrence.
“I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own,” he wrote. “I’m terminating yours.”
Dorner wrote that he would bring “asymmetrical warfare” to the LAPD, both the people involved in his firing and just about anyone wearing the uniform.
A close read of his manifesto leads one to believe that Dorner sees himself as a freedom fighter, battling the corruption he claims has penetrated every level of the LAPD infrastructure.
Freedom fighter or not, by the morning of Feb. 7, every cop in Los Angeles and Irvine was looking for Chris Dorner. Irvine cops wanted him because he allegedly shot two innocent people to death in their city. Los Angeles cops wanted him because he claims the LAPD stole his life and his name from him, and for that, he plans to kill lots of LAPD cops.
He wrote that Caucasian, black, Hispanic, Asian and lesbian LAPD cops are “high value” targets.
Dorner wrote that he would not target officers from other law enforcement agencies, so long as they stayed out of his way. But if the man inside the smoldering cabin in Angelus Oaks is Dorner, he died before actually killing a single LAPD officer. The only officers he killed were from other agencies.
Dorner’s manifesto went wide on Feb. 6, with local news channels detailing all of its unsettling details. By the morning of Feb. 7, just about everyone knew where he was—or rather, they knew where he’d be.
By now the timeline is clear. Sometime around 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 6, Dorner tried to steal a yacht from an 81-year-old man in San Diego, with the alleged plan of sailing to Mexico. That plan didn’t work. When Dorner tried to shove off, a rope got tangled up in the propeller of the boat, rendering the boat inert. Dorner then reportedly tied up the old man, took a few items from him then hit the road.
He wasn’t spotted again until just after 1:15 a.m. in Corona. That’s when a couple of LAPD officers learned Dorner was there. The LAPD officers were in Corona as part of a protection detail, there to look over someone specifically mentioned in Dorner’s manifesto as a target.
The officers went looking for Dorner’s vehicle and found it. A late-model Nissan Titan. Gray in color. As they tried to pull Dorner over, he jumped out with a rifle and opened fire. One of the officers was hit—a graze wound to the forehead. He’s expected to be fine.
At a press conference the next day, an LAPD official claimed the officers’ radio car was disabled, so they couldn’t chase Dorner when he hopped back in his truck and sped off.
East. To Riverside.
At about 1:35 a.m., Dorner stopped at a red light at the intersection of Arlington and Magnolia. Across the intersection, a Riverside police cruiser was stopped at the same light. At a press conference later that day, Riverside police chief Sergio Diaz said the two officers inside that cruiser had no idea they were looking at Dorner’s truck, which put them at a significant disadvantage . . . when he ambushed them (allegedly).
Diaz said there was no exchange of gunfire. Dorner’s gun, Diaz said, was the only voice in a one-side conversation, peppering the police cruiser with rounds. Not only did the two officers not have a chance to return fire, they didn’t have a chance to call for help until it was all over.
And it may not have been the officers who called for help. Diaz wouldn’t go into detail—out of caution that Dorner might target the civilians who helped the officers—but said that after this is all over, there will be stories of the heroism of the civilians who came to the officers’ aid.
Despite said heroism, Dorner’s (alleged) attack claimed the life of 34-year-old Michael Crain, an 11-year veteran of the department. Crain was training a younger officer, who was critically wounded in the attack, but is expected to survive.
Crain was laid to rest Wednesday morning, less than a day after the man accused of taking his life was himself killed. Presumably.
After the (alleged) attack, Dorner continued east.
Meanwhile, everyone else was losing their damn minds.
LAPD officers on a protection detail in Torrance opened fire on a Toyota Tundra that they claim was driving down a street (where they were watching over another of target named in Dorner’s manifesto). The truck allegedly had its lights out and the cops lit it up with gunfire. Turned out, the truck belonged to two women delivering the morning paper. Both women were wounded, but not seriously. They’ve already lawyered up and it’s probably safe to say they probably have a sizeable settlement to look forward to sometime in the near future.
About 9:30 a.m., San Bernardino County deputies and U.S. Forest Service personnel responded to a fire road about a mile and a half away from Bear Mountain Ski Resort in Big Bear Lake. They found a Nissan Titan engulfed in flames. Several hours later, officials confirmed that the vehicle indeed belonged to Dorner.
By then, the media had descended on Big Bear Lake. So had hundreds of sheriff’s and CHP personnel, all scouring the surrounding neighborhoods for some sign of Dorner. They searched more than 400 homes, many of them vacant vacation spots just south of the lake.
The truck was set on fire, and with it, two AR-15 rifles, according to sheriff’s officials. The truck also had a broken axle and as it burned, tracks led away into the snow.
Before the mountain search was even 24 hours old, fresh snow dumped on Big Bear Lake, helping obscure whatever scant clues were left, indicating where dorner may have gone. The sheriff-led search party scaled back over the weekend, as the trail went cold. Bear Mountain Ski Resort re-opened, as did local schools.
The popular opinion was that Dorner set the truck on fire as a decoy, to draw law enforcement up to Big Bear as he stole away to some other locale. But in the five days that separated Dorner’s disappearance in the mountains to the day he re-appeared and presumably died in a dramatic gunfight, he was likely holed up in that cabin where the cleaning ladies found him Tuesday afternoon. That cabin, one of the many empty vacation cabins in Big Bear Lake, was less than 200 yards from the command post where hundreds of heavily armed sheriff’s deputies, CHP officers and SWAT team members were planning their search for him.
Now the only thing left to do is wait for word from authorities that the man in the burned cabin—up the road in Angelus Oaks—was indeed Dorner. And wait for authorities to identify the sheriff’s deputy killed in that final firefight.
But for now, the manhunt appears to be over.