After a couple of false alarms, San Bernardino County law enforcement believed they found the most-wanted man in America — the cop-turned-serial-killer Christopher Dorner. After a traffic stop turned into a gunfight, the suspect retreated into a cabin in Big Bear, a remote resort town in the mountains that is known for its winter sports rather than police standoffs. One deputy got killed and another wounded in the initial fight, and hours later the cabin burst into flames. Investigators hauled out the charred remains of the suspect, whom they hope to identify — fast:
After what LAPD Chief Charlie Beck called “a bittersweet night,” investigators Wednesday were in the process of identifying the human remains found in the charred cabin where fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner was believed to have been holed up after trading gunfire with officers, authorities said.
If the body is identified as Dorner’s, the standoff would end a weeklong manhunt for the ex-LAPD officer and Navy Reserve lieutenant suspected in a string of shootings following his firing by the Los Angeles Police Department several years ago. Four people have died in the case, allegedly at Dorner’s hands.
Beck said he would not consider the manhunt over until the body was identified as Dorner. Police remained on tactical alert and were conducting themselves as if nothing had changed in the case, officials said.
The latest burst of gunfire came Tuesday after the suspect, attempting to flee law enforcement officials, fatally shot a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy and seriously injured another, officials said. He then barricaded himself in a wooden cabin outside Big Bear, not far from ski resorts in the snow-capped San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles, according to police.
Given the circumstances and Dorner’s publicized manifesto, law enforcement assumed that negotiations would be fruitless. Instead, they worked on eliminating the gunman’s cover, and weren’t messing around, either:
Just before 5 p.m., authorities smashed the cabin’s windows, pumped in tear gas and called for the suspect to surrender, officials said. They got no response. Then, using a demolition vehicle, they tore down the cabin’s walls one by one. When they reached the last wall, they heard a gunshot. Then the cabin burst into flames, officials said.
Initially, the suspect took two maids hostage, but they managed to slip out of their bonds and call 9/11 after he had left:
The discovery of a man who police believe to be Christopher Dorner began when two maids ran into him Tuesday morning as they arrived to clean a vacant cabin in the Big Bear area near where the fugitive ex-cop’s car was set ablaze last week.
The two maids entered a cabin in the 1200 block of Club View Drive, close to Snow Summit and Bear Mountain Resort, and surprised a man who they said resembled the fugitive, a law enforcement official said. The man tied up the maids, and then took off in a purple Nissan parked near the cabin, authorities said.
One of the maids was eventually able to break free and called 911 at 12:20 p.m., officials said.
Nearly half an hour later, the suspect was allegedly driving on California 38 when he passed a marked vehicle driven by the agency’s law enforcement officers.
They recognized the suspect as he passed and swung their vehicle around in pursuit.
The suspect attempted to evade them by turning off onto Glass Road, and at some point crashed and abandoned the small car.
He tried carjacking another vehicle to get away, allowing the driver to leave with his dog. Apparently, he hoped that the change in vehicle would allow him to get away. No such luck:
He then sped off in the Dodge extended-cab pickup — and quickly encountered two Department of Fish and Wildlife trucks.
As the suspect zoomed past the officers, he rolled down his window and fired about 15 to 20 rounds. One of the officers jumped out and shot a high-powered rifle at the fleeing truck.
The suspect subsequently crashed that truck and ran into the woods. He ended up in a cabin.
More bad luck for the suspect — the game warden was a former Marine:
The pursuit culminated in what officials described as a wild shootout between the man and one of the wardens. The suspect rolled down his window and opened fire into the approaching Fish and Wildlife truck as the vehicles passed just two feet apart, officials said. The shots shattered the driver’s side window and damaged the state truck.
The warden, a 35-year-old former Marine, jumped out and fired 20 rounds from a high-powered rifle as the suspect fled in a hijacked truck, officials said.
Sources said the warden, who has been with the department for 2 1/2 years, had never fired his weapon in the line of duty, nor had he ever been fired on in his state job.
They had better hope this was Chris Dorner, although the carjacking and gunfight certainly justifies the actions taken in this standoff either way. They just don’t want to have to do this all over again.
Speaking of which, this CBS reporter probably hopes he never has to cover a story like this quite so closely, either:
Update: The AP reports that Dorner’s driver’s license was found on the scene:
The search ended Tuesday when a man believed to be Dorner bolted from hiding, stole two cars, barricaded himself in a vacant cabin and mounted a last stand in a furious shootout in which he killed one sheriff’s deputy and wounded another before the building erupted in flames.
He never emerged from the ruins and hours later a charred body was found in the basement of the burned cabin along with a wallet and personal items, including a California driver’s license with the name Christopher Dorner, an official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
If this is true, then it’s all but confirmed.