US police believe fugitive Dorner died in cabin fire

Thu, Feb 14, 2013, 00:00

A fugitive ex-policeman accused of killings that targeted police officers and their families is believed to have died in a mountain cabin that burned down following a week-long hunt across southern California, authorities said yesterday.

Police were awaiting forensic analysis to confirm that charred human remains found in the ruins of the cabin were those of Christopher Dorner (33).

Authorities including Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the man, who had barricaded himself inside the cabin during a standoff with police on Tuesday in the snow-swept hills of the San Bernardino National Forest, was almost certainly Dorner.

“We all are breathing a sigh of relief. We do believe it is the body of Christopher Dorner, but we don’t know for certain,” Mr Villaraigosa told CNN, adding that a positive, conclusive identification could be days or weeks away.

Normal state

Los Angeles police department spokesman Lieut Andy Neiman said the LAPD had returned to “a normal state of operations”. However he said special security details assigned to about a dozen officers and their families threatened by Dorner would remain in place for the time being.

Dorner is suspected of killing four people in all, including a deputy sheriff who was shot on Tuesday.

He had been on the run since last Wednesday when he was named as the prime suspect in the killing of a couple in Irvine, south of Los Angeles.The search intensified on Thursday after he was accused of killing a Riverside policeman, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, in an ambush that left a second officer wounded.

Police converged later that day in the San Bernardino Mountains after a pick-up truck identified as Dorner’s was found abandoned and burning near the ski resort of Big Bear Lake, northeast of Los Angeles.

An angry manifesto posted last week on Dorner’s Facebook page claimed he had been wrongly dismissed from the Los Angeles police department in 2008. He vowed to seek revenge by unleashing “unconventional and asymmetrical warfare” on officers and their families.

The climax to the hunt began when two housekeepers encountered a man believed to have been Dorner inside a vacant cabin in the Big Bear area. He tied them up and then took off in a purple Nissan parked near the cabin.

One of the women freed herself and called police. Mr Villaraigosa said the housekeepers might end up qualifying for a $1 million reward that was posted for information leading to Dorner’s capture.

State game wardens spotted the stolen vehicle and gave chase. The suspect crashed that car, then commandeered a pick-up truck at gunpoint from another motorist and traded gunfire with the game wardens as he sped away.

Gunfire exchanged

Dorner then abandoned the truck and fled into the woods to the cabin, which was believed to be vacant, and exchanged gunfire with deputies who closed in on the scene.

The Los Angeles Times reported that authorities had pumped tear gas into the cabin through smashed windows and called for the suspect to surrender but received no response. As police used a demolition vehicle to tear down the walls, they heard a gunshot from inside before the cabin burst into flames, the Times said. – (Reuters)