Massive manhunt underway for fired US police officer accused of killings
LOS ANGELES — Law enforcement officers working in falling snow searched a Southern California mountain Friday for the former Los Angeles police officer accused of carrying out a deadly shooting spree and threatening to bring “warfare” to former colleagues because he felt he was unfairly fired.
More than 100 officers were searching for Christopher Dorner in the San Bernardino Mountains east of the city after finding his burnt-out truck and footprints. A policeman and two others have been killed since last weekend.
“We’re going to continue searching until either we discover that he left the mountain or we find him, one of the two,” San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said at a midmorning news conference.
A search of dozens of homes in the Big Bear community failed to find Dorner, and the search was concentrating deeper in the mountains, near the place where his truck was found on Thursday, the sheriff said.
Officers followed what appeared to be Dorner’s tracks from the truck but lost them on the frozen ground, McMahon said.
“There’s a lot of cabins up there that are abandoned. We want to make sure that he didn’t find a place to hide out for the night,” he said. Deputies were now focusing on 200 vacant cabins in the surrounding forest. Helicopters with heat-sensing technology were grounded because of the storm, and visibility was low.
In Los Angeles, the head of the Police Department’s detective bureau said all options in the search were being kept open.
“Here’s the bottom line: We don’t know if he’s on foot or not,” said Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese. “Is he on foot up on the mountain? Is he down the mountain? We don’t know.”
The search for Dorner, 33, stretches across California, Nevada, Arizona and northern Mexico. LAPD officers are especially on edge because Dorner, who was fired from the force in 2008 after three years on the job, promised in rambling writings to bring “warfare” to police and their families.
“We don’t know what he’s going to do,” said Cindy Bachman, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. “We know what he’s capable of doing. And we need to find him.”
Throughout the day, thousands of heavily armed officers patrolled highways throughout Southern California, while some stood guard outside the homes of more than 40 people police say Dorner vowed to attack in a rant posted online.
“I will bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare” to Los Angeles Police Department officers, on or off duty, said the manifesto. It also asserted: “Unfortunately, I will not be alive to see my name cleared. That’s what this is about, my name. A man is nothing without his name.”
It added, “I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own, I’m terminating yours.”
Dorner had several weapons including an assault rifle, said police Chief Charlie Beck, who urged him to surrender at a news conference held amid heightened security in an underground room at police headquarters.
“Of course he knows what he’s doing; we trained him. He was also a member of the Armed Forces,” he said Thursday. “It is extremely worrisome and scary.”
At one point, officers guarding one location mistakenly opened fire on a truck, believing it matched the description of Dorner’s. Two people inside were injured.
The search for Dorner, who was fired from the LAPD in 2008 for making false statements, began after he was linked to a weekend killing in which one victim was the daughter of a former police captain who had represented him during his disciplinary hearing. Thursday was the anniversary of his first day on the job at the department eight years ago.
Monica Quan and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, were found shot in their car Sunday.
Police said Dorner implicated himself in the couple’s killings in the manifesto posted on Facebook. They believe he was the one who wrote it because there were details in it only he would know.
Dorner was with the LAPD from 2005 until 2008.
According to documents from a court of appeals hearing, Dorner was fired from the LAPD after he made a complaint against his field training officer, Sgt. Teresa Evans. Dorner said that in the course of an arrest, Evans kicked suspect Christopher Gettler, a schizophrenic with severe dementia.
Richard Gettler, the schizophrenic man’s father, gave testimony that supported Dorner’s claim. After his son was returned home on July 28, 2007, Richard Gettler asked “if he had been in a fight because his face was puffy” and his son responded that he was kicked twice in the chest by a police officer.
Quan’s father, a former LAPD captain who became a lawyer in retirement, represented Dorner in front of the Board of Rights, a tribunal that ruled against Dorner, police said. Quan did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Dorner said in his online rant that after his dismissal that he lost everything, including his relationships with his mother, sister and close friends.
“Self-preservation is no longer important to me. I do not fear death as I died long ago,” the manifesto said. “I was told by my mother that sometimes bad things happen to good people. I refuse to accept that.”
Dorner said he would use all of his training to avoid capture and track his targets.
Dorner also had served in the Naval Reserves, earning a rifle marksman ribbon and pistol expert medal. He was assigned to 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.
“I will utilize every bit of small arms training, demolition, ordinance and survival training I’ve been given,” the manifesto read. “You have misjudged a sleeping giant.”
Earlier Thursday, two LAPD officers en route to provide security to one of Dorner’s possible targets were flagged down by a resident who reporting seeing the suspect. The officers then followed a truck until it stopped. The driver, believed to be Dorner, got out and fired a rifle, police said. A bullet grazed an officer’s head.
Later, two officers on routine patrol were ambushed at a stoplight by a motorist who drove up next to them and opened fire with a rifle. One died and the other was seriously wounded but was expected to survive, Riverside police Chief Sergio Diaz said.
Diaz said news organizations should withhold the officers’ names because the suspect had made clear that he considers police and their families “fair game.”
In San Diego, where police say Dorner tied up an elderly man and unsuccessfully tried to steal his boat Wednesday night, Naval Base Point Loma was locked down Thursday after a Navy worker reported seeing someone who resembled Dorner.
Navy Cmdr. Brad Fagan said officials believe Dorner had checked into a base hotel on Tuesday and left the next day without checking out. Numerous agencies guarded the base on Thursday. Fagan said Dorner was honourably discharged and that his last day in the Navy was last Friday.
Agents were inspecting a package sent to CNN’s Anderson Cooper that arrived in New York on Feb. 1, days before the first two killings. It contained a note on it that read, in part, “I never lied.” A coin typically given out as a souvenir by the police chief was also in the package, riddled with bullet holes.
Dorner’s writings suggested he did not expect to live through the ordeal.
“Unfortunately, I will not be alive to see my name cleared,” he wrote at one point in his manifesto, later saying, “Self-preservation is no longer important to me. I do not fear death as I died long ago.”