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.

Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
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

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam