Dorner may have had help in trying to flee to Mexico
A fugitive former Los Angeles police officer wanted in connection with a deadly shooting rampage may have had help in his efforts to flee to Mexico as a massive manhunt was gearing up to capture him, according to federal court records obtained Monday by The Times.
The records state how authorities developed “probable cause” that Christopher Jordan Dorner, 33, was possibly trying to escape to Mexico and provide new details on his actions since he allegedly killed three people, including a police officer, in a shooting rampage that police say began Feb. 3 in Irvine.
Dorner may have been helped by an associate identified only as “JY” in the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles late last week after the former police officer was suspected of fleeing from authorities.
Federal authorities told The Times on Monday night that the court papers, filed late last week, reflected their thinking at the time, but they stressed that Dorner could be anywhere.
As the manhunt continued Monday, the Riverside County district attorney’s office filed murder and attempted murder charges against Dorner, who is accused of killing one police officer and wounding two others in that county before his burning pickup was found near Big Bear.
Dorner allegedly attempted to steal a boat in San Diego and, after subduing the captain, said he was taking the vessel to Mexico, according to an affidavit filed with the federal complaint. Dorner is accused of telling the captain that he could recover his boat in Mexico.
“The attempt failed when the bow line of the boat became caught in the boat’s propeller, and the suspect fled,” according to the affidavit by Inspector U.S. Marshal Craig McClusky.
After authorities interviewed the boat captain early Thursday, they found Dorner’s wallet and identification cards “at the San Ysidro Point of Entry” near the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the court records. That same day, a guard at the Point Loma Naval Base told authorities he had spotted a man matching Dorner’s description trying to sneak onto the base, according to the filing.
The possibility that Dorner received help from the associate was raised in McClusky’s affidavit. The Marine Corps and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department investigators were conducting a surveillance operation of an Arrowbear Lake property owned by a family member of the associate Thursday and discovered a burning vehicle nearby that matched the gray Nissan pickup used by Dorner.
The charges filed Monday in Riverside County on Monday accuse Dorner of opening fire, unprovoked, on Riverside police Officer Michael Crain, 34, a married father of two who served two tours in Kuwait as a rifleman in the U.S. Marines.
Dorner faces three additional counts of attempted murder of a peace officer for allegedly shooting and critically injuring Crain’s partner and firing upon two Los Angeles police officers stationed in Corona to protect an LAPD official named in an online manifesto authorities attribute to Dorner. One of the LAPD officers was grazed on the head by a bullet.
Riverside County Dist. Atty. Paul Zellerbach said the murder charge includes two special circumstance allegations that make Dorner eligible for the death penalty — killing a peace officer and discharging a firearm from a vehicle.
Filing criminal charges will ensure that if Dorner is caught, either out of the state or out of the country, the outstanding arrest warrant would clear the way for a rapid extradition.
“I want to cover all my bases. I want to make sure when he is located and arrested, he can be extradited back to California as soon as possible,” Zellerbach said after holding a noon news briefing.
The district attorney believes that Dorner, if he is still alive, is not done with his quest for revenge and thirst for the public’s attention.
“Even though he may have gone underground now, given the nature of his conduct and his words and his actions, he’s going to reappear,” Zellerbach said. “I don’t think he’s done.... He’s trying to send a message, and it would be my belief that his message is not completed yet.”
Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz has called Dorner’s attack on his two officers early Thursday a “cowardly ambush.” Dorner allegedly opened fire as the officers sat in a patrol car, stopped at a red light.
The surviving officer, 27, who was being trained by Crain, continues to recover from surgery. He has been with the department less than a year.
“He’s in a lot of pain. He’s going to be facing a lot of surgeries in the coming weeks and months,” Diaz said. “We don’t know if he’ll be able to return to active duty. We certainly hope so.”
Dorner’s alleged rampage began with the Feb. 3 shooting deaths of Monica Quan, a Cal State Fullerton assistant basketball coach, and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, a USC public safety officer.
Quan was the daughter of a retired LAPD captain whom Dorner apparently accused online of not representing him fairly at a hearing that led to his firing. In what police said was his posting on a Facebook page, Dorner allegedly threatened the retired captain and others he blamed for his firing.
More than 50 LAPD families remained under police guard Monday.
A scaled-down search for Dorner continued Monday in woods west of Big Bear Lake, where his burning truck was found on a forest road Thursday.
About 30 officers are searching vacation homes and cabins in “an even more remote area,” and the search will resume Tuesday with the same number of law enforcement personnel, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
On Sunday, Los Angeles officials announced a $1-million reward for information leading to the capture and arrest of Dorner. The reward — raised from local governments, police departments, civic organizations, businesses and individuals — is thought to be the largest ever offered locally.
Times staff writer Robert J. Lopez contributed to this report.