Dorner manhunt: Confusion over whether body was found
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There were conflicting reports about whether a body was located inside the burned-out cabin Tuesday night where Christopher Jordan Dorner was believed to have kept law enforcement authorities at bay.
Several sources told The Times and many other news organizations that a body was located in the rubble. But LAPD officials said that the cabin was still too hot to search and no body has been found.
As authorities moved into the cabin earlier Tuesday, they heard a single gunshot. According to a law enforcement source, police had broken down windows, fired tear gas into the cabin and blasted over a loud speaker, urging Dorner to surrender. When they got no response, police deployed a vehicle to rip down the walls of the cabin ‘one by one, like peeling an onion,’ a law enforcement official said.
By the time they got to the last wall, authorities heard a single gunshot, the source said. Then flames began to spread through the structure, and gunshots, probably set off by the fire, were heard.
As darkness descended on the mountainside, Dorner’s body had not been found, authorities said. Police were planning to focus their search in the basement area, the source said.
Earlier Tuesday, a tall plume of smoke was rising as flames consumed the wood-paneled cabin. Hundreds of law enforcement personnel had swooped down on the site near Big Bear after the gun battles between Dorner and officers that broke out in the snow-covered mountains where the fugitive had been eluding a massive manhunt since his truck was found burning in the area late last week.
Law enforcement personnel in military-style gear and armed with high-powered weapons took up positions in the heavily forested area as the tense standoff progressed.
One San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy died after he and another deputy were wounded in an exchange of gunfire outside the cabin in which hundreds of rounds were fired, sources told The Times. The deputy was airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he died of his wounds.
The afternoon gun battle was part of a quickly changing situation that began after Dorner allegedly broke into a home, tied up a couple and held them hostage. He then stole a silver pickup truck, sources said.
Then Dorner was allegedly spotted by a state Fish and Wildlife officer in the pickup truck, sources said. A vehicle-to-vehicle shootout ensued. The officer’s vehicle was peppered with multiple rounds, according to authorities.
[Updated, 8:38 p.m. Feb. 12: San Bernardino County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said officials have not confirmed what is inside the cabin. She said police believed a suspect was inside the cabin at the time of the fire but that officials have not gone in yet to look for the body.]
-- Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein