February 9, 2013

Police killer manhunt: 'You have misjudged a sleeping giant'

Christopher Dorner's manifesto spoke of taking revenge against those he blamed for his downfall.

By GILLIAN FLACCUS The Associated Press

Christopher Dorner sees himself as a crusader, a 6-foot, 270-pound whistleblower who confronted racism early in life and believes he suffered in his career and personal life for challenging injustices from bigotry to dishonesty.

Steven Spagon
click image to enlarge

San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department officer Steven Spagon mans a checkpoint Friday during the search for fired Los Angeles officer Christopher Dorner in Big Bear Lake, Calif.

The Associated Press

Christopher Dorner
click image to enlarge

Christopher Dorner wrote: “Self-preservation is no longer important to me.”

The Associated Press

MANHUNT CONTINUES IN CALIFORNIA MOUNTAINS

BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. - All that was left were footprints leading away from Christopher Dorner's burned-out pickup truck, and an enormous, snow-covered mountain where he could be hiding among the skiers, hundreds of cabins and dense woods.

More than 100 officers, including SWAT teams, were driven in glass-enclosed snow machines and armored personnel carriers to hunt for the former Los Angeles police officer suspected of going on a deadly rampage to get back at those he blamed for ending his police career.

With bloodhounds in tow, officers went door to door as snow fell, aware to the reality they could be walking into a trap set by the well-trained former Navy reservist who knows their tactics and strategies as well as they do.

"The bad guy is out there, he has a certain time on you, and a distance. How do you close that?" asked T. Gregory Hall, a retired tactical supervisor for a special emergency response team for the Pennsylvania State Police.

"The bottom line is, when he decides that he is going to make a stand, the operators are in great jeopardy," Hall said.

As authorities weathered heavy snow and freezing temperatures in the mountains, thousands of heavily armed police remained on the lookout throughout California, Nevada, Arizona and northern Mexico. Police said officers still were guarding more than 40 people mentioned as targets in a rant they said Dorner posted on Facebook.

At noon, police and U.S. marshals accompanied by computer forensics specialists served a search warrant on his mother's house in the Orange County city of La Palma. Dorner's mother and sister were there at the time, and a police spokesman said they were cooperating.

The manhunt had Southern California residents on edge. Unconfirmed sightings were reported near Barstow, about 60 miles north of the mountain search, at Point Loma base near San Diego and in downtown Los Angeles.

For the time being, the police focus was on the mountains 80 miles east of Los Angeles -- a snowy wilderness, filled with deep canyons, thick forests and jagged peaks, that creates peril as much for Dorner as the officers hunting him. Bad weather grounded helicopters with heat-sensing technology.

After the discovery of his truck Thursday afternoon, SWAT teams in camouflage started scouring the mountains.

As officers worked through the night, a storm blew in, possibly covering the trail of tracks that had led them away from his truck but offering the possibility of new trails to follow.

Without the numbers that authorities have, Dorner will likely rely on the element of surprise, experts said.

"He doesn't even have to stand and fight," Hall said. "He makes his shot of opportunity and flees."

-- The Associated Press

He fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a Los Angeles police officer in 2005, but saw it unravel three years later when he was fired after a police review board decided he falsely accused his training officer of kicking a mentally ill man in the face and chest.

The incident led Dorner to plot violent revenge against those he thought responsible for his downfall, according to a 14-page manifesto police believe he authored because there are details in it only he would know.

Police said Dorner began carrying out his plot last weekend when he killed a woman whose father had represented him as he fought to keep his job. Also killed was the woman's fiance, whose body was found with hers in a parked car near the recently engaged couple's condominium.

On Thursday -- the eighth anniversary of his first day on the job with the LAPD -- Dorner ambushed two officers, killing one, authorities said.

David Pighin, a neighbor of Dorner in the Orange County community of La Palma, said the ex-officer kept to himself and left his house and his black Nissan Titan, outfitted with tinted windows and custom rims, impeccably clean. "There wasn't a scratch on it," Pighin said.

The pickup, which had been torched, was found Thursday in mountains east of Los Angeles.

Dorner has no children and court records show his wife filed for divorce in 2007, although there's no evidence one was granted. Pighin believed Dorner lived with his mother and possibly his sister. On Wednesday night, Pighin saw a white van with two armed SWAT officers in front of Dorner's house and later learned about the manhunt.

"We were completely shocked," he said. "This is a good family that appeared to be really nice people. They were really admired in the neighborhood."

Dorner, 33, graduated in 2001 from Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah, school officials said, where he majored in political science and had an unremarkable career as a reserve running back on the football team.

A friend from those days, Jamie Usera, told the Los Angeles Times that he saw no red flags. The two would have friendly debates about the extent of racism in the United States and take trips into the Utah desert to hunt rabbits, Usera told the newspaper.

"He was a typical guy. I liked him an awful lot," said Usera, who's now a lawyer in Salem, Ore. "Nothing about him struck me as violent or irrational in any way. He was opinionated, but always seemed level-headed."

In addition to police work, Dorner served in the Naval Reserves, earning a rifle marksman ribbon and pistol expert medal. He served in a naval undersea warfare unit and various aviation training units, according to military records, and took a leave from the LAPD and deployed to Bahrain in 2006 and 2007.

In 2002, as a Navy ensign in Enid, Okla., Dorner and another man found a bank bag in the street holding nearly $8,000 and turned it over to authorities, who returned it to a church, the Eagle News and Eagle reported.

"I didn't work for it, so it's not mine," he said at the time. "And, it was for the church. It's not so much the integrity, but it was someone else's money. I would hope someone would do that for me."

Dorner's last day with the Navy was last Friday.

In response to threats in the manifesto, police were providing more than 40 protection details for people they determined at high risk after Dorner warned that their families would be harmed.

(Continued on page 2)

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