Couple says Christopher Dorner tied them up, gagged them
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When they stumbled upon Christopher Jordan Dorner inside their condo, they were quickly bound and gagged by him so they couldn’t escape and alert authorities that the fugitive former police officer was in the area.
That harrowing ordeal was described by Jim and Karen Reynolds, who own the Big Bear area property, where Dorner was apparently holed up for as many as five days.
“I really thought it could be the end,” Karen Reynolds told reporters outside the condo Wednesday night.
Dorner bound the couple’s arms and legs tightly with plastic zip locks, stuffed small towels in their mouths so they couldn’t scream and covered their heads with pillowcases, they said. He tied an extension cord around each of the pillowcases to keep the gags in place.
They said he assured them that he meant no harm: “I don’t have a problem with you. I just want to clear my name,’ they recalled him saying.
‘He tried to calm us down, saying very frequently, he would not kill us,” said Jim Reynolds, 66, who has owned the condo with his wife for 12 years. ‘He huddled down beside me and said ‘you’re going to be quiet, right? Not make a fuss and let me get away?’ ‘
Dorner, 33, said those words to the couple after nearly a week of eluding authorities, who pursued the former LAPD officer after police say he killed several people.
‘He told us ‘I know you know who I am, I know you’ve been seeing the news,’ ' recalled 56-year-old Karen Reynolds.
The couple’s account added new details about some of Dorner’s movements in the apparent final hours of his life before he is believed to have died in a fire following a mountainside gun battle with officers. Law enforcement authorities previously said the fugitive had held two cleaning women hostage. The Reynolds, married for 36 years, spoke to reporters to end the confusion.
The Reynolds said Dorner had been at the condo since as early as Friday when they arrived to do maintenance in the yard. He told them he was watching them while they worked during the day before leaving to sleep at another property nearby. The couple own the condo, near ski resorts in the snow-capped San Bernardino Mountains, and lease it out to people on vacation.
Dorner said he had seen Jim Reynolds shoveling snow and told the couple they were ‘hard-working, good people.’
When they entered the condo about noon Tuesday to clean the unit, they said, they were surprised to find the fugitive former Los Angeles police officer inside, upstairs. They said they were held captive for about 15 minutes.
Once they saw Dorner, they said, he brandished a “big gun” and yelled, “Stay calm!”
Karen Reynolds said she tried to run down the stairs, but Dorner chased after her and caught her. He then took the couple to a bedroom, where he tied them up, forcing them to lie on the bed, and then on the floor.
Dorner was a menacing presence but at other times tried to reassure the couple that he did not want to harm them, they said.
Karen Reynolds said Dorner left the condo and stole their purple Nissan.
At that point, Karen Reynolds was able to roll on her knees and get onto her feet. She was able to make her way to the cellphone on the coffee table. With her hands still bound behind her back, she was able to call 911, and put the phone on speaker about two minutes after they heard the car leave.
“Dorner tied us up, and he’s in Big Bear,” Karen Reynolds recalled telling the operator.
That call at 12:20 p.m. alerted authorities that Dorner was in the area and set in motion the chain of events that led to a shootout between Dorner and a state Fish and Wildlife warden and the standoff at the cabin where he is believed to have died as flames consumed the wood-paneled structure.
The blaze was sparked after authorities fired incendiary tear gas into the cabin, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon told reporters Wednesday afternoon.
McMahon denied speculation that officers intentionally set the fire, saying officers first used traditional tear gas to flush the man out. When that didn’t work, they decided to use CS gas canisters, which are known in law enforcement parlance as incendiary tear gas. These canisters, filled with more potent gas, have a significantly greater chance of starting a fire.
‘We did not intentionally burn down that cabin,’ the sheriff said.
As the Reynolds recounted the harrowing ordeal, they said they were ‘happy to be alive.’ They said they have mixed feelings about Dorner, whom they described as calm, alert and methodical. They found evidence that someone had been staying in the cabin, such as a gallon of milk in the fridge, but don’t know if a previous tenant had left it behind. The last renter was there on Jan. 29, the couple said.
The unit was equipped with cable television and Internet and is a short walk from a command post where authorities briefed reporters on the manhunt. There were no signs of forced entry.
Asked if they expected a share of the more than $1-million reward offered in the case, the couple said they didn’t expect to receive anything.
‘We heard nobody was getting that because he needed to be captured and convicted,’ Karen Reynolds said.
-- Adolfo Flores in Big Bear and Rong-Gong Lin II, Andrew Blankstein and Robert J. Lopez in Los Angeles