A massive California manhunt for a fugitive former cop looked to have ended yesterday after authorities found human remains in the charred ruins of a cabin where he was thought to have holed up.
The cabin in the mountains above Los Angeles went up in flames after the gunman, suspected of a killing spree that has targeted police and their families, took refuge following a car chase with police, officials said.
Police were awaiting forensic analysis to confirm the body was that of Christopher Dorner, the subject of the six-day manhunt that has ranged across southern California.
However, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Bachman told reporters the man who barricaded himself inside the cabin and exchanged gunfire with officers was thought to be Dorner, 33.
“We believe he was still inside,” she said.
A sheriff’s deputy was killed in the shootout in the snow-covered, wooded hills of the San Bernardino National Forest, northeast of Los Angeles, bringing to four the number of killings Dorner is suspected of committing.
A second sheriff’s deputy was wounded in Tuesday’s gunfight.
An angry manifesto posted last week on Dorner’s Facebook page said he had been wrongly terminated from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 2008.
He vowed to seek revenge by unleashing “unconventional and asymmetrical warfare” on officers and their families.
Tuesday’s climax to the saga unfolded after police learned that a gunman they believed was Dorner had broken into a home near the ski resort community of Big Bear Lake, tied up a couple and stolen their vehicle.
State game wardens later spotted the vehicle and gave chase. The suspect crashed the car, then commandeered a pickup truck at gunpoint from another motorist, Lieutenant Patrick Foy of the state Fish and Wildlife Department said.
As game wardens pursued him, the suspect fired at them from the window of the truck, and one of the game officers stopped his truck and fired back with a high-powered rifle, Foy said, adding that he did not know whether the man was hit.
Officers got close enough at one point during the chase to recognize the driver as Dorner, Foy said, before he abandoned the pickup and fled on foot into the woods to a cabin believed to be vacant, where he holed up inside and exchanged fire with sheriff’s deputies.
After a lull in the gunfire, the cabin suddenly caught fire, with smoke and flames seen engulfing the structure. Loud popping sounds could be heard from inside.
Dorner’s last confirmed encounter with authorities came last Thursday, when police said he ambushed two policemen at a traffic light in Riverside, about 100km east of Los Angeles.
One officer was killed and the other wounded.
The former US Navy officer is also suspected of exchanging gunfire that day with police and wounding one officer in nearby Corona.
Dorner first came to public notice on Feb. 6, when police identified him as a suspect in the slayings of a campus security officer and his fiancee, the daughter of a retired Los Angeles police captain.
In the manifesto posted on his Facebook page, Dorner blamed the captain for his dismissal from the LAPD.
Authorities posted a US$1 million reward for information leading to Dorner’s capture, an amount they said was the largest ever offered in a southern California criminal investigation.