Christopher Dorner manhunt: Under their noses for a week, how LAPD finally got their man

The hunt for the California cop killer is over. But Christopher Dorner had been hiding in plain sight all along

Los Angeles

For a week, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies led a vast manhunt scouring Southern California for 33-year-old Christopher Dorner, the fugitive former police officer suspected of killing at least three people in a shooting spree. It now appears he spent most of that time in the heart of the search area, in an empty holiday home close to the ski resort of Big Bear Lake, within walking distance of police, press and the truck he left smouldering on a forest road last Thursday.

Today, police were waiting to identify the body of a man – believed to be Dorner – found in the charred rubble of a remote, snow-fringed cabin in the Seven Oaks neighbourhood of the San Bernadino mountains, following a firefight that claimed the life of a fourth victim.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said his officers would be instructed to act as if Dorner was still at large until the remains were formally identified. “This could have ended much better, it could have ended worse,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

The manhunt reached its dramatic climax on Tuesday, after two housekeepers arrived to clean a house on Club View Drive, about five miles from Big Bear. They found a man fitting Dorner’s description, whom authorities now believe may have been hiding there for several days. He tied the women up and drove away in a purple Nissan at 12.15pm. One of the victims broke free and called the police.

Around half an hour later, the stolen Nissan passed a vehicle driven by game wardens from the California Fish and Wildlife Department, who gave chase along icy mountain roads. In his attempt to escape, the suspect crashed the stolen car, and then hijacked a pick-up truck belonging to Rick Heltebrake, a local Boy Scout leader. The suspect was wearing camouflage and a bulletproof vest: “He was dressed up to do some damage,” Heltebrake told Good Morning America. The man, whom Heltebrake said was Dorner, soon crossed paths again with trucks from the Fish and Wildlife service, which had assigned six  wardens to the search.

After opening fire on the officers, one of whom shot back, the fugitive swerved off the road, abandoned the pick-up, and fled through the snow. By the time he reached the low wooden cabin at Seven Oaks, he was also being pursued by San Bernadino County sheriff’s deputies. A shootout ensued, during which two of the deputies were wounded. Both were airlifted to hospital; one later died of his injuries.

The suspect then barricaded himself inside the cabin as police closed in. According to its owner, Candy Martin, the building was unoccupied. A Swat team smashed windows, pumped in tear gas and demanded Dorner give himself up. At around 5pm a demolition vehicle was sent in to break down the walls of the cabin one by one. A single gunshot was heard before the structure was consumed by flames. The Associated Press reported that Dorner’s driving licence was recovered from the ruins. It was not known what caused the fire.

In the angry “manifesto” posted on his Facebook feed before he began his alleged string of murders, Dorner predicted he would perish in a violent confrontation with police. “Self-preservation is no longer important to me. I do not fear death as I died long ago,” he wrote. The speech traced Dorner’s long-ago “death” to 2009, when he was fired by the LAPD for allegedly lodging a false complaint against his training officer, whom he claimed had used excessive force during an arrest.

Dorner, who had served as a US Navy reservist in Afghanistan, threatened police officers and their families with “warfare”. The rant came to light too late for Randy Quan, a lawyer and retired LAPD captain, who represented Dorner at the tribunal that led to his dismissal. Dorner is suspected of killing Quan’s 28-year-old daughter, Monica, and her fiancé, Keith Lawrence, 27, who were found shot dead in their car in Irvine, Orange County on Sunday 3 February.

Last Thursday, Dorner allegedly shot three police officers in two separate incidents in Riverside County, 60 miles east of Los Angeles. One of the officers, 34-year-old Michael Crain, was killed when a man thought to be Dorner ambushed him and his partner as their car idled at traffic lights. Crain’s partner was seriously wounded but survived. Los Angeles authorities offered a $1m reward for information leading to the arrest of Dorner, who was formally charged with Crain’s murder on Monday.

Police began searching the mountains around Big Bear when the Nissan Titan truck that Dorner was then believed to have been driving was found abandoned on a forest road. Until Tuesday’s bloody confrontation, it was the final clue to the suspect’s whereabouts.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
John Rees-Evans is standing for Ukip in Cardiff South and Penarth
news
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
Sport
David Silva, Andy Carroll, Arsene Wenger and Radamel Falcao
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photo Booth Host

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company offers London's best photo booth ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers



£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Director / Operations Director

£50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an incredible opportunity for a ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Administrator is requir...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'