Manhunt: SWAT team searching Big Bear area for ex-cop
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Fatigue-clad officers scoured the mountainous terrain near Big Bear after a burning pickup truck was found that may belong to a fugitive ex-Los Angeles police officer wanted in connection with a series of shootings that have left three people dead and two wounded.
The mountain community locked down schools and closed the nearby Bear Mountain Resort as television helicopters hovered overhead, showing footage of a SWAT team walking through the woods, rifles drawn.
A law enforcement source told The Times that the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department had deployed a team to the site of the truck as a precaution. Investigators were searching for a vehicle identification number on the charred truck to see if it belonged to the suspect, Christopher Jordan Dorner, 33.
‘We are still trying to identify who that vehicle belongs to,’ San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Jodi Miller told The Times. But she said the agency had dispatched extra personnel to patrol the mountain community as ‘a safety precaution.’
There had been multiple reported sightings in the Big Bear area on Thursday of Dorner’s truck, sources said. Dorner was last seen wearing military fatigues and has a military ID. Coincidentally, at the Bear Mountain and Snow Summit ski resorts, customers who wore their military uniforms on Thursday could purchase a discounted $38 lift ticket.
Sean Jacques, director of loss prevention for Big Bear Mountain Resorts, said that after the burning truck was discovered on a forest service road, local law enforcement told resort officials to keep an eye out for Dorner and provided a description of the suspect. “They said maintain vigilance,” he said.
Several law enforcement agencies are involved in the massive manhunt for Dorner and alerts have been issued all across California and in Nevada. The Los Angeles Police Department had dispatched units across the region to protect at least 40 officers and others named in a rambling online manifesto that law enforcement officials attribute to Dorner.
Dorner, who was fired from the LAPD in 2009, is suspected of shooting three police officers, one of whom died, in Riverside County early Thursday.
Dorner also is suspected of killing a couple in Orange County earlier this week who were found shot in a car. One of the victims was the daughter of a former LAPD captain named in the purported manifesto.
Dorner was believed to be carrying multiple weapons, including an assault rifle.
Law enforcement authorities said they were concerned about Dorner’s military background and weapons training. The lengthy online message allegedly written by the former Navy Reserve lieutenant threatened ‘unconventional and asymmetrical warfare’ against police. Dorner received awards for his expertise with a rifle and pistol, according to military records obtained by The Times. He received an Iraq Campaign Medal and was a member of a mobile inshore undersea warfare unit.
Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz, calling the attack a ‘cowardly ambush,’ said Dorner is suspected of opening fire with a rifle about 1:30 a.m. Thursday as he pulled up to two police officers waiting at a traffic light. The attack was carried out about 20 minutes after Dorner wounded an LAPD officer in a shooting in nearby Corona, police said.
Early Thursday, two women delivering newspapers in Torrance were shot by Los Angeles police who were guarding an officer named in the manifesto. The women, shot in the 19500 block of Redbeam Avenue, were taken to area hospitals, Torrance police Lt. Devin Chase said. One suffered a minor wound, and the other was struck twice and listed in stable condition, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told reporters.
‘Tragically,’ Beck said, ‘we believe this is a case of mistaken identity.’
-- Andrew Blankstein, Kate Mather, Robert Lopez and Phil Willon