Manhunt continues for ex-police officer wanted in 3 deaths

Christopher Dorner (photo from LAPD)

Christopher Dorner (photo from LAPD)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) — Police continued the massive manhunt for Christopher Dorner early Friday in a Southern California mountain town as a severe winter storm that may help cover the tracks of the suspected cop killer moved in.

As quickly as Dorner emerged on the scene with his guns, bravado and bitter manifesto, the burly man, who is a suspect in three murders, disappeared, it seemed.

Investigators suspect him of killing a police officer, and another officer’s daughter and fiance, to settle a score for what he called an unjust firing.

Early Friday, it seemed for a while that the focus of the search had shifted to the San Diego area, where a caller told authorities that Dorner may have been spotted near the Barona Indian Reservation. Officers were searching that area, said Sgt. Jason Rothlein of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. He later said the phone call was probably a hoax.

Police on Thursday afternoon found the military-trained marksman’s torched pickup truck near Big Bear Lake, about 100 miles east of the Los Angeles area where the killings took place.

Despite hundreds of officers, helicopters and door-to-door searches, everybody was still looking for Dorner on Friday morning.

If Dorner is still in the mountains, an approaching snowstorm could make the search for him more difficult. Early Friday, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the area, with up to 10 inches of snow possible. Paired with gusty winds up to 50 mph, visibility could be reduced to a quarter-mile and temperatures could plunge to 6 degrees Fahrenheit, the weather service said.

He wants revenge

Dorner, authorities said, is bent on vengeance against Los Angeles Police Department officers he claims ruined his life by forcing him out of his dream job. The 270-pound former Navy lieutenant detailed his rage in an 11-page manifesto. In that letter — provided to CNN by an LAPD source — he vowed to violently target police officers and their families, whoever and wherever they are.

“I will bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform whether on or off duty,” Dorner wrote.

“I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own, I’m terminating yours.”

Authorities believe he followed through on his threats early Thursday by shooting three people, including a Riverside, California, police officer who died and two others who were injured.

A day earlier, Irvine police named Dorner a suspect in the slayings Sunday of a woman — identified by Los Angeles police as the daughter of a retired LAPD officer — and her fiance.

“My opinion of the suspect is unprintable,” Riverside police Chief Sergio Diaz said, hours after one of his officers was killed. “The manifesto, I think, speaks for itself (as) evidence of a depraved and abandoned mind and heart.”

The violence, as well as Dorner’s background as a police officer and military-trained marksman, left police on edge around Southern California.

In Torrance, LAPD officers guarding one of Dorner’s alleged targets mistakenly opened fire on a blue pickup truck that resembled one Dorner was thought to be driving, Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said.

The gunfire wounded two people, he said. Torrance police also fired on another blue pickup, but no one was injured in that incident, a senior law enforcement source said.

Targeting police

It all started Sunday when Dorner allegedly killed two people in Irvine, police said.

Police identified the victims as Monica Quan and her fiance, Keith Lawrence.

Quan, 27, was the daughter of retired Los Angeles police Officer Randal Quan, LAPD Officer Tenesha Dobine told CNN. In his manifesto, Dorner said Quan handled his appeal.

On Tuesday, Dorner checked into the Navy Gateway Inns and Suites on San Diego’s large naval base, Cmdr. Brad Fagan said.

Dorner probably had access to the hotel because he’d been honorably discharged from the Navy Reserve, the Navy spokesman said. Dorner retired on February 1 as a lieutenant, having worked with mobile inshore undersea warfare units and having provided security on oil platforms in Iraq, according to Pentagon records. He was rated as a rifle marksman and pistol expert.

“He did not physically check out,” Wednesday as expected, Fagan told reporters.

Police in San Diego say a man who could have been Dorner tried to hijack a boat there Wednesday. Someone later found a wallet containing Dorner’s identification and an LAPD detective’s badge near the San Diego airport, police said. It was unclear whether the badge was legitimate.

By about 1 a.m. Thursday, the scene had shifted about 100 miles north to Corona, California.

There, a pair of LAPD officers on a protection detail were flagged down by a citizen who reported seeing the suspect’s vehicle, LAPD Deputy Chief Jose Perez said.

The officers chased the vehicle and caught up to it on an Interstate 15 off-ramp.

“The officers were fired upon with a shoulder weapon,” Perez said, with one of them suffering a “graze wound” to his head. The police returned fire, and the suspect set off once again.

About 20 minutes later, two police officers were in their car at a stoplight in Riverside when Dorner allegedly pulled up beside them.

That driver unleashed “multiple rounds” from a rifle at the officers, riddling the police car with bullets and killing a 34-year-old officer who had been on the Riverside force for 11 years, said Diaz, the Riverside police chief. The other officer, 27, was “seriously wounded but we expect a full recovery,” he said.

A message to the media

In addition to posting his manifesto online, Dorner reached out directly to CNN, mailing a parcel to AC360 anchor Anderson Cooper’s office at CNN in New York.

The package arrived on February 1 and was opened by Cooper’s assistant. Inside was a hand-labeled DVD, accompanied by a yellow Post-it note reading, in part, “I never lied” — apparently in reference to his 2008 dismissal from the LAPD.

The package also contained a coin wrapped in duct tape. The tape bears the hand-written inscription: “Thanks, but no thanks, Will Bratton.” It also had letters that may be read as “IMOA,” which could be a commonly used Internet abbreviation for “Imagine a More Open America,” or possibly “1 MOA,” which means one minute of angle, perhaps implying Dorner was notably accurate with a firearm.

The coin is a souvenir medallion from former LAPD Chief William Bratton, of a type often given out as keepsakes. This one, though, was shot through with bullet holes: three bullet holes to the center and on that nicked off the top.

The editorial staff of AC360 and CNN management were made aware of the package Thursday. Upon learning of its existence, they alerted Bratton and law enforcement.

Bratton headed the LAPD at the time Dorner was dismissed.

2007 arrest incident

The dispute centers on a 2007 incident in San Pedro involving a man’s arrest at a DoubleTree hotel. Two weeks later, Dorner accused his training officer of kicking the man after he’d given up.

The investigators’ report said “the delay in reporting the alleged misconduct coupled with the witness’ statements irreparably destroy Dorner’s credibility.” The report cited contradictory accounts from the arrested man and his father and denials by the accused officer and three hotel employees that the arrested man had been kicked. Dorner claims he was wrongly ousted for blowing the whistle on what he insists was police abuse.

Dorner challenged his firing for years, losing at every turn. First, the police department’s Board of Rights rejected his appeal. Then, in October 2011, a judge ruled against his appeal, according to court records.

Beck, the Los Angeles police chief, said Thursday that Dorner’s case had been “thoroughly reviewed” and said the department would not apologize to Dorner or clear his name.

But as his manifesto shows, Dorner is showing no sign of relenting.

Authorities locked down the Big Bear area Thursday after Dorner’s truck was found. But late in the evening, after a fruitless search and no sightings or tips about Dorner’s whereabouts, San Bernardino sheriff officials announced that schools and the local ski resort would open Friday.

The announcement fueled speculation that Dorner may have escaped the area.

“He could be anywhere at this point,” San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said.

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