The manhunt for a fired Los Angeles police officer suspected in the slayings of four people was over today after charred human remains were found in the burned-out mountain cabin where he is believed to have been holed up during a gun battle that claimed the life of a San Bernardino sheriff’s deputy.
A determination of whether the remains found Tuesday in the cabin on Seven Oaks Road just off Highway 38 near Big Bear are those of 33-year-old Christopher Jordan Dorner — suspected in the slayings last week of two people in Irvine and a police officer in Riverside — will be made through forensic examination, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
Dorner — the subject of a six-day manhunt — is believed to have been the man who stole one vehicle and carjacked another, then shot and killed one San Bernardino sheriff’s deputy and wounded another while barricaded in the cabin, which caught fire shortly before 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, authorities said.
The fire burned for several hours, delaying the entry of law enforcement personnel.
“We believe that someone was inside and that was the person who stole the vehicle and fled, then abandoned the vehicle, ran into the forest and inside this cabin, where he barricaded himself and was engaged in gunfire with our deputy sheriff, shot two of our deputy sheriffs and one of those deputies died,” said San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Cindy Bachman. She said investigators had reason to believe the person holed up in the cabin was Dorner.
No one was seen emerging from the cabin, and by about 6:30 p.m., reports from the scene indicated remains believed to be Dorner’s had been found inside, although law enforcement officials did not confirm the discovery.
The inferno that consumed the cabin climaxed a wild day of violence in the normally tranquil mountain community, which had been the focus of the Dorner manhunt since his pickup truck was found burning in the area last Thursday.
At 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies received a report of a man matching Dorner’s description stealing a car from a cabin in the 1200 block of Club View Drive in Big Bear. According to reports from the scene, two female housekeepers had gone into the cabin and found someone matching Dorner’s description inside. The suspect tied the women up and fled in their vehicle, according to witnesses and sheriff’s officials.
The women were not injured. It was unclear how long the suspect may have been hiding in the cabin, which was close to the law enforcement command post that had been established during the manhunt.
The stolen vehicle was spotted a short time later along Highway 38 by a state Fish and Wildlife officer who had been taking part in the hunt, according to the sheriff’s department and the state agency. The officer alerted other Fish and Wildlife officers who also followed the vehicle.
The suspect opened fire on them, striking the pursuing officers’ vehicle, according to Fish and Wildlife Lt. Patrick Foy. The officers, who returned fired at the suspect, were not injured, he said. Authorities said the suspect then got out of the vehicle and fled on foot.
At some point during the pursuit, the suspect carjacked a man’s silver pickup truck — without hurting him, the man later said. The suspect drove off in the truck, but later crashed it down a forest embankment.
The carjacking victim, Rick Heltebrake, told reporters that Dorner was dressed in camouflage gear and carried what looked like a sniper-type rifle when he forced him out of his pickup truck, allowing him to take his dog from the vehicle.
With an army of law enforcement in pursuit, the suspect scampered into the Seven Oaks Road cabin, sparking a gunfight in which hundreds of rounds are reported to have been fired.
During the battle, two San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies were shot. Both were airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where one was pronounced dead at 2:24 p.m., according to Bachman. The other deputy underwent surgery and medical personnel are optimistic about his recovery, but it is believed several additional surgeries will be required, she said.
During the standoff, tear gas canisters were fired into the building shortly after 4 p.m. By about 4:20 p.m., the cabin was engulfed in flames.
Several reports indicated that a single gunshot was heard emanating from the cabin before it burned down. As the fire raged, the sound of exploding ammunition could be heard from inside.
On Feb. 3, Dorner — also a former Navy lieutenant — allegedly gunned down the daughter and future son-in-law of an ex-police captain who represented him at a hearing that resulted in his dismissal from the LAPD. The bodies of 28- year-old Cal State Fullerton assistant women’s basketball coach Monica Quan and her fiance, 27-year-old USC public safety Officer Keith Lawrence, were found in Lawrence’s car in the parking structure of their Irvine condominium building.
The next day, Dorner allegedly posted a 6,000-word manifesto on Facebook, vowing to kill named LAPD officers and their families. About 50 Los Angeles police officers and their families were being protected during the manhunt, authorities said.
On Thursday, Dorner was allegedly involved in a shootout with Los Angeles police guarding an officer’s home in Corona, leaving one officer with a graze wound to the head, police said. About 20 minutes later, he allegedly fired on a pair of Riverside police officers stopped at a red light, killing Officer Michael Crain, 34, and wounding the other, who was expected to recover.
Crain, an 11-year department veteran and ex-Marine, is survived by his wife, Regina, and two children, Ian, 10, and Kaitlyn, 4. His funeral is today in Riverside.
The search for Dorner had been focused in the Big Bear area since Thursday afternoon, when his pickup truck — apparently disabled by a broken axle — was found burning in a wooded area. LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith, a department spokesman, said investigators were following up on 1,045 tips — most generated after a $1 million reward for information leading to Dorner’s capture and conviction was announced Sunday.