A massive manhunt was under way this morning for a fired Los Angeles Police Department officer suspected in the revenge slayings of a college basketball coach and her finance in Irvine and the ambush killing of a Riverside police officer.
Three law enforcement helicopters flew above the mountainous Big Bear area in San Bernardino County Thursday night after the pickup truck belonging to Christopher Jordan Dorner was found burning just off a forest road in the area around 2:30 p.m. Thursday, authorities said.
Police today were also maintaining security details aimed at protecting colleagues named as targets in a manifesto written and posted online by the suspect, authorities said.
All the areas where someone could have walked away from the truck were being searched by ground and the hunt was continuing throughout the night, said Cindy Bachman of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
A winter storm was expected to bring up to four inches of snow to the Big Bear area today, according to the National Weather Service, but it was unclear if Dorner has ventured into the rugged terrain or if the truck was set ablaze as a feint.
Bachman said she was not aware of any vehicle having been stolen since the burned out truck was discovered.
Deputies had gone to about half of the 400 vacation homes in the area and there were no signs of forced entry at any of them, Bachman said late Thursday. The pickup truck discovery led to the lockdown of Big Bear-area schools and the closure of the Bear Mountain ski resort, but the schools and resort were to be open today, she said.
Dorner — a U.S. Navy reservist whose last known address was in the 4900 block of Sharon Drive in La Palma — is black, 6 feet tall and weighs 270 pounds.
Anyone encountering him should consider him “armed and extremely dangerous” and should not approach or try contacting him but instead call 911 immediately, police said. A tip line has been established, 949-724-7192.
People can also call Riverside police at 951-787-7911.
The LAPD has been on a full tactical alert, which extends officers’ shifts, since shortly after the Thursday morning shootings in Riverside County of three police officers, one of whom was killed, said Officer Christopher No of the LAPD’s Media Relations Section.
Numerous officers have been standing guard outside LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles since Dorner, 33, was identified Wednesday night as the suspect in the slayings of 28-year-old Monica Quan and her finance, 27-year-old Keith Lawrence, who were found shot to death at 9:10 p.m. Sunday in a parked car at 2100 Scholarship in Irvine.
The couple was inside Lawrence’s Kia, which was parked at the top of the five-story parking structure of the building where they lived.
According to police, Quan was the daughter of a retired LAPD captain who represented Dorner at the Board of Rights hearing that led to his firing, and the killings were carried out in an act of revenge outlined in the lengthy manifesto, which blames Quan’s father for losing his job.
Dorner was hired by the LAPD on Feb. 7, 2005, and he was fired Sept. 4, 2008, for allegedly making false statements about his training officer, police said.
After Dorner was named as the suspect in the Irvine killings, his gray Nissan Titan pickup truck was spotted around 1:20 a.m. Thursday in the Corona area by a resident who alerted a pair of LAPD officers en route to protect someone named in the manifesto.
The officers were trying to catch up to the vehicle near Interstate 15 and Magnolia Avenue when Dorner allegedly opened fire on them, grazing one officer in the head. The officers returned fire, but Dorner, wearing camouflage fatigues and using a shoulder-held weapon, escaped, police said.
A short time later, Dorner allegedly opened fire on two Riverside police officers who were stopped at a red light at Magnolia and Arlington avenues in Riverside, according to Riverside police Lt. Guy Toussaint, who said the two were on “routine patrol” and were not searching for Dorner at the time.
One officer — a 34-year-old, 11-year veteran of the force — was killed.
The wounded Riverside officer, who is 27 years old, underwent surgery and is expected to fully recover, Riverside police Chief Sergio Diaz said. Early Thursday morning in Torrance, meanwhile, LAPD and Torrance police officers opened fire in separate shootings about a block apart at two trucks matching the description of Dorner’s Nissan. In the LAPD shooting, two women delivering newspapers were wounded.
Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said they were the victims of mistaken identity. One of them, a 71-year-old woman, was in intensive care with two bullet wounds to her back, the woman’s attorney told reporters.
Beck noted that Dorner unsuccessfully tried to steal a boat from a man in San Diego County on Wednesday.
Also in San Diego, police surrounded a military base and hotel in Point Loma after receiving a report of a suspect matching Dorner, but nobody was found.
In the LAPD hearing that resulted in his termination, Dorner was represented by then-LAPD Capt. Randy Quan, the father of Monica Quan, according to Irvine Police Department Chief David Maggard.
Dorner posted his manifesto online Monday, saying he didn’t mind dying because he already died when he was fired from the LAPD, Maggard said. He wrote that it had been his life’s ambition to be an LAPD officer since he served in the police Explorer program, and he blamed Quan for his firing.
“I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own … (so) I am terminating yours,” Dorner wrote to Randy Quan.
Dorner’s manifesto essentially described his plans to begin a military-style assault against the LAPD.
“I would tell him to turn himself in,” Beck said. “This has gone far enough. You know, nobody else needs to die.”