Former officer suspected of pursuing murderous vendetta against LA force thought to have died amid shootout
Charred human remains have been found in the burnt-out mountain cabin outside Los Angeles where fugitive former police officer Christopher Dorner made his bloody final stand.
A spokeswoman for San Bernardino county sheriff, Jodi Miller, said the remains were found late on Tuesday after a shootout in which one sheriff’s deputy was killed and another injured. Authorities believe Dorner had barricaded himself inside the cabin which later caught fire in a dramatic climax to the biggest US police manhunt in living memory.
Dorner, 33, a former LA police officer suspected of murdering three people in his vendetta against California’s law enforcers and their families, is thought to have taken refuge inside the unoccupied rental cabin after a shootout and chase by vehicle and foot.
Hundreds of rounds were fired in the ensuing siege. The blaze began soon after teargas was fired into and around the cabin. During a lull in shooting a single gunshot from inside the cabin was heard. The smouldering wreckage was too hot to immediately enter after the fire.
“People on the scene are as confident as they can be without seeing the body that it is Dorner inside,” the LA police chief, Charlie Beck, said.
He added: “It is a bittersweet night. This could have ended much better, it could have ended worse. I feel for the family of the deputy who lost his life.”
The San Bernardino county sheriff’s department later said analysts would try to identify the remains.
“We have reason to believe that it is him,” said another spokeswoman for the department, Cynthia Bachman, adding that she did not know how the fire started.
Much of the climax to Dorner’s bloody vendetta against the force unfolded live on television, transfixing viewers. A reporter for CBS broadcast the sound of screaming and hundreds of gunshots at the beginning of the siege.
The drama began in the morning when two housekeepers entered a vacation cabin beside a golf course and discovered the fugitive inside. The cabin was reportedly close to the police command post that co-ordinated a massive but fruitless search in the area after Dorner abandoned his pickup truck there last Thursday, an embarrassing revelation if confirmed.
The former navy reservist tied up the housekeepers and stole their car, but crashed it. He then commandeered a purple Nissan.
Fish and wildlife rangers intercepted and chased Dorner. He started shooting and hit their vehicle but caused no injuries. He briefly shook off his pursuers by overtaking two school buses and leaving the highway, said Patrick Foy, a spokesman with the department of fish and wildlife, but other units found him after he again crashed.
He fled on foot to the nearest rental cabin and was swiftly surrounded by reinforcements from the San Bernardino sheriff’s department.
In the ensuing battle, two deputies were shot. Both were taken to Loma Linda University medical centre. One died of his wounds. The other had surgery and was expected to survive. Feelings against Dorner ran high. “I hope he burns,” said Michael Mitchell, a volunteer at the clinic.
It seemed he soon got his wish. Flames engulfed the cabin, sending plumes of smoke skyward, and there was no more shooting from inside.
The finale was likely to boost Dorner’s status among a small but vocal online community as a heroic outlaw. These people have cheered Dorner’s homicidal spree as comeuppance for an allegedly racist and violent police force.
Dorner held a grudge because the force sacked him in 2008 saying he had falsely accused a colleague of kicking a homeless man.
Before his rampage Dorner posted a lengthy online “manifesto” that accused the department of racism and deceit. He insisted he had told the truth about the kicking.
“You’re going to see what a whistleblower can do when you take everything from him especially his NAME!!!” he wrote. “You have awoken a sleeping giant.”
His revenge allegedly began on 3 February with the murder of Monica Quan, 28, the daughter of a retired police captain, and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, 27. They were shot dead in their car.
Four days later an officer, Michael Crain, 34, was killed and two others were wounded.
After Dorner vanished authorities announced a $1m ( 640,000) reward for his capture, California’s largest in living memory. Beck called the vendetta a campaign of domestic terrorism.