Responses to Dorner case contain surprises

Divided views of the man suspected in three killings show how the twisted drama has taken on unexpected dimensions.

A Christopher Dorner sighting was reported Sunday in my Northridge neighborhood. Helicopters swarmed, patrol cars roared up. The hardware store was evacuated and my favorite bakery roped off.

It turned out to be a false alarm — just some random big black guy trying to shop at Lowe's, not the rogue ex-cop sought in the killings of three people.

The mistake didn't surprise me. The $1-million bounty now on Dorner's head has prompted hundreds of recent "sightings." I imagine street vendors are already peddling "I'M NOT DORNER" T-shirts, in XXL.

Dorner case: In the Feb. 12 Section A, a column about public reaction to the case of Christopher Dorner, the former L.A. police officer suspected of three killings, gave an incorrect first name for a former Republican presidential candidate. His name is Jon Huntsman, not John.

What did surprise me was the response of locals to the prospect of Dorner nearby. They were worried more about "trigger-happy" cops than the risk posed by the fugitive at the center of the manhunt.

That's a reflection of how this twisted drama has taken on unexpected dimensions.

There has been, on the fringes, an online duel about whether Dorner's mission to avenge his "racist" firing from LAPD makes him villain, hero or victim. "Christopher Dorner For President" reads one Facebook page. "Find and Kill Christopher Jordan Dorner" urged another.

But there's confusion in the center too, unfolding in more measured tones in Facebook posts and on media comment boards, among people with different perspectives about the roots and meaning of this evolving tragedy.

Is this the story of one paranoid, delusional man, with a long memory, a mean streak and a murderous vendetta?

Or is it a reflection of racism, callousness and corruption, still stubbornly embedded in our new-and-improved Los Angeles Police Department?


Before any of us board the "folk hero" train, we ought to remember that Dorner is charged with murder in the death of a Riverside police officer and suspected of killing a young Irvine couple. The young woman, Monica Quan, was the daughter of a retired LAPD officer who was targeted for revenge by Dorner.

Still, Dorner's lengthy online manifesto left me with a lump in my throat. It is alternately frightening, painful, funny, smart and terribly disconcerting.

He lays out his grievances against the LAPD in excruciating detail. He lost his job and his dignity, he says, because of cowards, racists and liars.

But he goes further, giving us a peek at the man behind the violence and threats. He backed John Huntsman for president, but likes Michelle Obama's bangs. He admires Ellen DeGeneres and Charlie Sheen, Tim Tebow and Colin Powell. He remembers the first time he was called a "nigger." He fought back, in first grade, and was punished for it.

He plays on themes that resonate in many people's lives: social isolation, workplace slights, the feeling of being marginalized. And he validates those who mistrust law enforcement with his diatribes.

A sort of kinship was clear in online comments from readers, like the mother whose sons are "harassed" by cops, and the guy "railroaded" out of a job he loved.

Confusion reigned in others. "Morbidly fascinating," one reader pronounced it. Another found it hard to square the image of a heartless killer with a man whose manifesto draws on D.H. Lawrence.