CITY NEWS SERVICE
IRVINE — A six-day manhunt for a fired Los Angeles police officer suspected in the slayings of two people in Irvine and a Riverside police officer came to a head today in Big Bear, where he allegedly stole a car then shot and killed a sheriff’s deputy in a raging gun battle while barricaded in a cabin that later burned to the ground.
It was still unclear if 33-year-old Christopher Jordan Dorner died in the inferno that engulfed the cabin on Seven Oaks Road just off Highway 38 shortly before 4:30 p.m. The cabin was still burning two hours later.
San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said investigators had reason to believe the person holed up in the cabin was Dorner. At about 6:30 p.m., CBS News reported that a body believed to be Dorner had been recovered inside the burned-out cabin, although law enforcement officials had not confirmed the discovery.
“Law enforcement officers on scene have not been able to enter the cabin,” Bachman said around 8:35 p.m. “It is too hot. It is still smoldering. It is not safe for them to enter.”
Bachman said she could not say when it would be safe for officers to enter the cabin.
“Any reports of a body being found are not true,” LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith said around 8 p.m. “Any reports of that body being identified as Christopher Dorner are not true.”
The fiery scene culminated a wild day of violence in the normally tranquil mountain community, which has been the focus of the Dorner manhunt since his pickup truck was found burning in the area last Thursday.
But at 12:20 p.m., San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies received a report of a man matching Dorner’s description stealing a car from a cabin in the 1200 block of Club View Drive in Big Bear. According to various reports from the scene, two female housekeepers had gone into the cabin and found someone matching Dorner’s description inside. The suspect tied the women up and fled in their vehicle, according to witnesses and sheriff’s officials.
The women were not injured. It was unclear how long the suspect may have been hiding in the cabin, which was ironically located close to the law enforcement command post that had been established during the Dorner manhunt.
The stolen vehicle was spotted a short time later along Highway 38 by a state Fish and Wildlife officer who had been taking part in the hunt, according to the sheriff’s department and the state agency. The officer followed the vehicle and the suspect opened fire, striking the pursuing officer’s vehicle, according to Fish and Wildlife. The officer was not injured.
Authorities said the suspect got out of the vehicle and fled on foot. A witness told KCAL9 the suspect later emerged from the woods and carjacked a man driving a silver pickup truck. The suspect drove off in the truck, but later crashed it down a forest embankment.
With an army of law enforcement in pursuit, the suspect scampered into the Seven Oaks Road cabin, sparking a gunfight that — according to some reports from the scene — involved the firing of hundreds of rounds.
During the battle, two San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies were shot. Both were airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where one was pronounced dead, according to Sheriff John McMahon. Bachman said the other deputy was expected to survive.
Meanwhile, the standoff at the cabin continued, but shortly after 4 p.m., tear gas canisters were fired into the building. By about 4:20 p.m., the cabin was engulfed in flames. Some reports indicated that a single gunshot was heard emanating from the cabin. KCAL9, which had a reporter close to the cabin during the firefight, reported that the sound of exploding ammunition could be heard inside the cabin as the fire raged.
On Feb. 3, Dorner — also a former Navy lieutenant — allegedly gunned down the daughter and future son-in-law of an ex-police captain who represented him at a hearing that resulted in his dismissal from the LAPD. The bodies of 28-year-old college basketball coach Monica Quan and her fiance, 27-year-old USC public safety officer Keith Lawrence, were found in Lawrence’s car in the parking structure of their Irvine condominium building.
The next day, Dorner allegedly posted a 6,000-word manifesto on Facebook, vowing to kill named LAPD officers and their families. About 50 Los Angeles police officers and their families were being protected during the manhunt, authorities said.
On Thursday, Dorner was allegedly involved in a shootout with Los Angeles police guarding an officer’s home in Corona, leaving one officer with a graze wound to the head, police said. About 20 minutes later, he allegedly fired on a pair of Riverside police officers stopped at a red light, killing Officer Michael Crain, 34, and wounding the other. The wounded officer was
expected to recover.
Crain, an 11-year department veteran, was a former Marine. He is survived by his wife, Regina, and two children, Ian, 10, and Kaitlyn, 4. Crain left “an unforgettable impression” on everyone he met, Riverside police Lt. Guy Toussaint said. His funeral is set for Wednesday.
The search for Dorner has been focused in the Big Bear area since Thursday afternoon, when his pickup truck — apparently disabled by a broken axle — was found burning in a wooded area.
During an afternoon briefing today in downtown Los Angeles, LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith said investigators were following up on 1,045 tips received by the department — most generated after a $1 million reward for information leading to Dorner’s capture and conviction was announced Sunday.