Dorner manhunt: LAPD relieved ‘gut-wrenching’ experience is over
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Like many Southern Californians, Los Angeles police officials nervously listened to radio traffic as a shootout unfolded at a Big Bear-area cabin, a spokesman said Wednesday. Officers swarmed the wood-paneled structure Tuesday after a man thought to be fugitive former cop Christopher Dorner was holed up inside. Sources described an intense firefight, with hundreds of rounds fired in a ‘constant barrage of gunfire.’
‘It was horrifying to listen to that firefight and hear those words ‘Officer down,’ ‘ LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman told reporters Wednesday. ‘It’s the most gut-wrenching experience that you can have as a police officer.’
Neiman provided a brief update on the ongoing investigation into Dorner as officials worked to identify a body found in the cabin, which burned to its foundation Tuesday.
Neiman declined to comment on the San Bernardino County part of the investigation, but said Los Angeles police returned to normal operations late Tuesday. Of the 50 or so families assigned protective details because of Dorner’s alleged manifesto, only about a dozen were still under watch Wednesday.
‘We have some individuals who are still in great fear,’ he said.
Neiman said the investigation into Dorner’s alleged acts would continue until investigators ‘make sure that we have covered every base.’ ‘We don’t just stop a murder case simply because we think the suspect in that case is no longer with us,’ he said.
The investigation ordered by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck into the handling of Dorner’s disciplinary case — an online manifesto attributed to Dorner complained he had been mistreated by the LAPD and vowed revenge — would also continue, Neiman said.
Beck ‘wants to make sure that the public has the confidence in this police department that we are operating in a transparent manner and the members of this police department are treated fairly.’ If the inquiry reveals concerns, Neiman said, ‘we are going to address it. [Beck] is very clear about that.’
As for the $1-million reward offered, Neiman said that issue would be handled by the city attorneys involved. He noted that although information received about Dorner on Tuesday was ‘beneficial,’ the reward was offered for his arrest and conviction.
“This is an unusual circumstance,” he said.
When asked about the lessons learned from the situation, Neiman replied: ‘There are going to be many lessons and we’re still learning.’
‘We’re still in a fog from all this,’ he said.
If the body is identified as Dorner’s, the standoff would end a days-long manhunt for the ex-LAPD officer and Navy Reserve lieutenant suspected in a string of shootings following his firing by the Los Angeles Police Department several years ago. Four people — an Irvine couple, a Riverside police officer and a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy — have died allegedly at Dorner’s hands.
Police say Dorner’s first victims were the daughter of the retired LAPD official who represented him at his disciplinary hearing and her fiance. Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence were found shot to death Feb. 3 in their car in their condo complex’s parking structure.
Days later, officials said, Dorner allegedly attempted to steal a boat in San Diego in a failed bid to escape to Mexico. By Feb. 7, authorities said, he had fled to the Inland Empire. In Corona, police said, he fired at an LAPD officer searching for him at a gas station. About half an later, he allegedly opened fire on two Riverside officers, killing Michael Crain, 34, and injuring his partner.
His burning truck was found near Big Bear later Thursday, prompting hundreds of officers to scour the area and conduct cabin-to-cabin checks. That search was scaled back as authorities found no new signs of the wanted man.
On Tuesday morning, two cleaning service workers entered a cabin in the 1200 block of Club View Drive and ran into a man who they said resembled the fugitive, a law enforcement official said. The cabin was not far from where Dorner’s singed truck had been found and where police had been holding news conferences about the manhunt.
The man tied up the women and he took off in a purple Nissan parked near the cabin, the official said. About 12:20 p.m., one of the women broke free and called police.
Nearly half an hour later, officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife spotted the stolen vehicle and called for backup, authorities said. The suspect turned down a side road in an attempt to elude the officers but crashed the vehicle, police said.
A short time later, authorities said, the suspect carjacked a light-colored pickup truck and took off, only to be spotted by another Fish and Wildlife officer. A gun battle ensued before Dorner crashed the truck and ran to the cabin.
He later shot two San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies, killing one and seriously injuring the other, authorities said. The injured deputy is expected to survive but it is anticipated he will need several surgeries. The names of the two deputies have not been released.
An intense gun battle ensued as authorities swarmed the cabin, people with knowledge of the situation said, adding hundreds of rounds were fired in just more than an hour.
‘There were very few lulls in the gunfire,’ one person familiar with the investigation said.
Just before 5 p.m., authorities smashed the cabin’s windows, pumped in tear gas and called for the suspect to surrender, officials said. They got no response. Then, using a demolition vehicle, they tore down the cabin’s walls one by one. When they reached the last wall, they heard a gunshot. Then the cabin burst into flames, officials said.
‘There would have been a lot more casualties’ if officers had to ‘assault the cabin and make entry,’ the source said. ‘There weren’t a lot of options.’
— Kate Mather, Joe Serna, Andrew Blankstein and Phil Willon