BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif., (UPI) — An examination is under way to determine whether remains in a burned cabin are those of an ex-Los Angeles police officer, holed up after a shootout with police.
If the remains are identified to be Christopher Dorner, 33, then a weeklong manhunt for the man accused of seeking deadly revenge following his 2008 firing from the force would be over, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
The newspaper said its law enforcement sources with knowledge of the case said investigators found personal items belonging to Dorner in the cabin’s charred rubble.
Two sources told the Times the items support investigators’ belief the remains are those of Dorner, but authorities cautioned forensic verification was still pending.
Dorner allegedly killed four people — a couple in Irvine last weekend, a Riverside County police officer last week and a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy during Tuesday’s shootout in the snowy San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear Lake.
The last burst of gunfire Tuesday came after Dorner, trying to get away from law enforcement officials, shot to death the sheriff’s deputy and seriously injured another deputy. He then barricaded himself in a cabin outside Big Bear, not far from ski areas in the mountains east of Los Angeles, a police source told the Times.
Law enforcement officials broke the cabin’s windows, lobbed in tear gas and called for the suspect to surrender, the Times said. After receiving no response, officials used a special vehicle to tear down the cabin’s walls individually. When they reached the last wall, they heard what they believed was a gunshot.
Then the cabin burst into flames.
A police source told CNN the cabin caught fire after police detonated smoke devices inside it.
Authorities said no one escaped the blaze. They also said they believe Dorner was alone.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said he wouldn’t consider the search for Dorner over until the body is identified as the former police officer.
“This could have ended much better; it could have ended worse,” Beck said. “I feel for the family of the deputy who lost his life.”
News organizations originally reported Dorner’s body was found in the burned-out building, but police said they did not have the body. Then the announcement came that a charred human body had been found.
In the events leading up to the standoff at the cabin, police said two maids who arrived to clean a vacant cabin near where Dorner’s burned-out car was found last week entered the cabin and surprised a man they said looked like the fugitive, the Times reported.
The man tied up the maids, and then took off in a purple Nissan parked near the cabin, authorities said. One maid eventually worked free and called police.
About 30 minutes later, the suspect passed a marked vehicle driven by the agency’s law enforcement officers who recognized him and swung around to pursue him, the Times said. The suspect attempted to evade them by turning onto another road, where he crashed and abandoned the car.
Later, authorities said, the suspect carjacked a pickup truck. As the suspect sped past the pursuing officers, he rolled down his window and fired at them. One officer left the vehicle and fired a high-powered rifle at the truck, the Times said.
Dorner was fired from the Los Angeles force in 2008 for filing a disputed report suggesting fellow officer Teresa Evans, now a sergeant, used excessive force during an arrest.
In a 6,000-word manifesto Dorner posted to his Facebook page, he complained he was wrongfully dismissed. He cited racism and corruption in the department and threatened several police officials and their families.
The department said Saturday it would reopen the disciplinary proceedings that led to Dorner’s firing.
Authorities have been searching for Dorner since he was named as the suspect in the shooting deaths Feb. 3 of the daughter of his police union representative and her fiance. Police say he also killed an officer in Riverside several days later and Thursday killed one deputy and wounded another.
Holly Haas, who lives about a mile from the shootout, told the Times she heard helicopters overhead until mid-afternoon. She said one dipped so close to her home, she said, “I could throw a rock and hit it.”
Candy Martin told the Times she was watching the events on television when she spotted her rental cabin where the suspect was believed to be holed up.
She said she contacted police and told them that the furnished, 85-year-old cabin had no cable, telephone or Internet service and no renters booked for Monday.
“There should have been nobody,” she recalled saying. “Nobody in any way.”