Dorner manhunt: Maids stumbled on suspect, were tied up, then called 911
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The discovery of a man that police believe to be fugitive ex-cop Christopher Jordan Dorner began when two maids stumbled upon him Tuesday as they arrived to clean a vacant cabin near ski resorts in the Big Bear area.
The suspect was found close to where law enforcement officials held news conferences over the weekend concerning their search for Dorner, 33, and near where Dorner’s car was set aflame last week.
Just after the maids saw the suspect, he tied the two up, took a car from the residence and left, according to a law enforcement official. One of the maids was eventually able to break free at the residence in the 1200 block of Club View Drive, close to Snow Summit and Bear Mountain Resort, and called 911 at 12:20 p.m.
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Then, at 12:45 p.m., according to state Fish and Wildlife officials, the suspect was allegedly driving a purple Nissan on California 38 when he passed a marked vehicle driven by the agency’s law enforcement officers.
They recognized the suspect as he passed and swung their vehicle around in pursuit.
The suspect attempted to evade them by turning off onto Glass Road, and at some point crashed and abandoned the small car.
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With officers still in pursuit, the suspect then stopped a truck driven by resident Rick Heltebrake, ordering him out. Heltebrake, a ranger at a nearby Boy Scout camp, didn’t want to leave his dog behind, a Dalmatian named Suni.
The suspect allowed them both to get out and then took off in vehicle, according to an account from a friend of Heltebrake.
Heltebrake told KTLA-TV Channel 5 that he believed the man was Dorner.
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“I saw some movement within the trees,” he said, and “here comes this guy with a big gun.” Heltebrake said the suspect aimed a gun at his head, but said he didn’t want to hurt either Heltebrake or his dog.
Heltebrake asked if he could get Suni’s leash, but the suspect told him no.
Behind the wheel of the stolen truck, the suspect was once again careening down Glass Road, and once again he passed a Fish and Wildlife vehicle coming from the opposite direction. Again an officer recognized the suspect. That driver radioed his colleagues traveling behind him that the suspect was heading in their direction in a silver pickup.
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When the suspect saw the second Fish and Wildlife truck approaching, he rolled down his window and took aim. The suspect opened fire into the cab as the vehicles passed just two feet apart, shattering the driver’s side window and strafing the state truck with a handgun.
The badly damaged truck skidded to a halt and a game warden, a 35-year-old former Marine, fired 20 rounds from a high-powered rifle as the suspect fled in the hijacked truck.
Sources said the warden, who had been with the department for 2 1/2 years, had never fired his weapon in the line of duty, nor had he ever been fired upon in his state job.
The suspect subsequently crashed that truck and ran into the woods. He ended up in the cabin. A firefight ensued. Two San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies were shot; one was pronounced dead at a hospital, while another is undergoing surgery. Hundreds of rounds were fired in the firefight.
According to a law enforcement source, police had broken windows, fired tear gas into the cabin and urged, over a loud speaker, the man they believed to be Dorner to surrender. When they got no response, authorities 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.
About 9 p.m. Tuesday, officials said the house was still too hot to enter.
San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said there was no indication that the suspect inside the cabin escaped. She said the cabin was surrounded by deputies and law enforcement officials and was being monitored by police helicopters.
“The cabin has not been entered. It is too hot. It is still smoldering and it is not safe for them to enter,” Bachman said. For days, multiple law enforcement agencies from across Southern California laid out a dragnet for the man accused of going on a revenge-fueled rampage following his termination from the LAPD in 2008. In addition to the San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy who was fatally wounded Tuesday, Dorner allegedly killed the 28-year-old daughter of a former LAPD captain, her fiance and a Riverside police officer.
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-- Phil Willon in Angelus Oaks, and Julie Cart, Matt Stevens, Andrew Blankstein and Joel Rubin in Los Angeles