Authorities to Determine if Remains Are of California Fugitive

By: The New York Times Email
By: The New York Times Email
Investigators will begin on Wednesday to determine whether charred human remains found in a burned-out cabin here are those of Christopher J. Dorner.

Police officers searched for Christopher J. Dorner on Tuesday at a checkpoint in Yucaipa, Calif.

(The New York Times) -Investigators will begin on Wednesday to determine whether charred human remains found in a burned-out cabin here are those of Christopher J. Dorner, the former Los Angeles police officer sought in the region’s largest manhunt, who is believed to have been inside the cabin as it burned down around him after the authorities pinned him down inside.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office said late Tuesday that identification of the remains “will be attempted through forensic means” — although investigators say there is little doubt they belong to Mr. Dorner.

“We believe he was still inside the cabin” when it went up in flames, Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said earlier during a news conference in Angelus Oaks, six miles from the scene. Mr. Dorner, a self-described survivalist believed to be heavily armed, had holed up in the rental cabin hours earlier and engaged deputies in a shootout, killing one deputy and wounding a second.

The dramatic chain of events, which included hostage taking and a chase in vehicles and on foot, played out in the sun-dappled, snowy San Bernardino Mountains.

It was unclear how the fire at the cabin began, but the authorities said that no one escaped the blaze and that Mr. Dorner was believed to be alone inside.

Officers, shouting orders through loudspeakers for Mr. Dorner to surrender, heard what they believed to be a single gunshot from within.

News organization widely reported that Mr. Dorner’s body was found in the building, but a spokesman from the Los Angeles Police Department said on Tuesday evening that they did not have the body.

Even after officers retrieve the body, it could take days or weeks to identify it, officials said. Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County sheriff, said in an evening news conference, “We believe that he was still inside the cabin,” but that it was not safe to enter because of the heat.

Both the suspect and the police were believed to have used smoke grenades during the shootout. The two deputies who were shot were airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center; the second deputy’s condition was not disclosed on Tuesday evening, but he was expected to recover.

The standoff drew scores of police officers and sheriff’s deputies from surrounding jurisdictions, led by the San Bernardino Sheriff-Coroner Department. The tension heightened as the day wore on, and local schools were locked down.

Law enforcement agencies ordered news helicopters to keep their distance for the protection of the officers involved. The sheriff’s online feed to the department’s radio scanner was shut down for the same reason. Reporters were asked to stop posting updates on Twitter.

The police believed that Mr. Dorner was monitoring the news, and Cmdr. Andrew Smith, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department, addressed him directly at a news briefing on Tuesday afternoon.

“Enough is enough,” Commander Smith said. “It’s time to stop the bloodshed and let this incident be over.”

Officers had been searching the Big Bear area since last week, when Mr. Dorner’s burning truck was found on a forest road. Mr. Dorner, a former reservist in the Navy, had boasted about his sharpshooting and survival abilities.

Days ago, Mr. Dorner apparently broke into a couple’s home on Club View Drive, the authorities said on Tuesday. The street is nestled beside a golf course in a community called Moonridge near Big Bear Lake. Mr. Dorner reportedly tied them up as his hostages and stayed out of sight until Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly after 12 p.m. Tuesday, the authorities received a report of a stolen white pickup truck and a description that fit Mr. Dorner’s. Soon after, he was spotted driving a white 2005 Dodge pickup by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The suspect was driving toward the officer in the opposite lane, said Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the department. The officer recognized Mr. Dorner, stepped out of his vehicle and fired at the suspect, who returned fire. Neither was injured, Mr. Hughan said.

The officer and a colleague chased the man, who crashed the pickup, fired at them and ran into the cabin.

More officers arrived and surrounded the cabin, and more gunfire was exchanged. Mr. Dorner fired out a window of the cabin before trying to flee from the rear, throwing a smoke bomb to hide his escape, but police gunfire drove him back inside, The Los Angeles Times reported. The newspaper also reported that deputies used smoke bombs to cover their evacuation of the fallen deputies

At the news briefing, Commander Smith said the Los Angeles Police Department had officers ready to be deployed from the San Bernardino airport, several miles from the cabin. He said the San Bernardino County sheriff had not yet asked for help from the Los Angeles force. Commander Smith would not say how many officers were at the airport because they did not want to “tip their hand” in case Mr. Dorner was watching.

The standoff came while officers investigated over 1,000 clues and tips about Mr. Dorner’s whereabouts, past and present, Commander Smith said.

The standoff capped a week of sightings, shootings and false leads in the hunt for Mr. Dorner, who was dismissed from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2008 after investigators concluded that he had lied in his claim that a training officer had assaulted a homeless person.

In a 6,000-word manifesto that Mr. Dorner published on his Facebook page, he complained that he had been dismissed wrongfully. He cited racism and corruption in the department and threatened several police officials and their families.

Los Angeles police officers guarded 50 families around the clock, taking up a significant amount of department resources.

On Feb. 3, the police in Irvine, Calif., discovered the bodies of Monica Quan, 28, and her boyfriend, Keith Lawrence, 27, in their car in a parking garage near a condominium complex where they lived. Ms. Quan was the daughter of a retired Los Angeles police captain who played a role in the disciplinary process that led to Mr. Dorner’s dismissal.

Last Wednesday at 10:30 p.m., the police believe, Mr. Dorner tried to hijack a boat at a marina in Point Loma, a community in San Diego. The man mentioned to the boat’s captain that he intended to take the craft to Mexico. But the boat became disabled as he was trying to steal it, so he fled instead.

On Thursday at 1:45 a.m., two officers in a protection detail for one of the people threatened by name in the manifesto confronted a man they believe was Mr. Dorner near the person’s home in Corona. Shots were exchanged, and one of the officers had a graze wound to his head. The gunman fled.

A short while later, two police officers in Riverside, Calif., were sitting in their patrol car at a stoplight when they were attacked by a man they believe was Mr. Dorner.

One of the officers was killed, the other injured. Again, the gunman fled.

At 5:20 the same morning, Los Angeles officers mistakenly shot and wounded two women delivering newspapers, thinking the pickup truck they were driving matched the description of the one Mr. Dorner was driving.

Late that afternoon, the police found the suspect’s truck in the San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear Lake. The hunt then focused on that area, which has only a handful of access roads.

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