The couple held captive by Christopher Dorner have provided clues to the fugitive gunman’s state of mind before he tried to flee the Southern California ski resort of Big Bear.
Dorner, 33, a former Los Angeles police officer suspected of killing four people, is thought to have died on Tuesday in a fire at a remote mountain cabin, following a shootout with sheriff’s deputies.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday evening Jim Reynolds, who is 66, and his wife Karen, 56, told how they had brought the week-long manhunt for Dorner to its climax after stumbling upon him in their holiday home in the San Bernadino mountains, close to Big Bear and the police command post from which the vast search was being conducted. It is now thought he may have been hiding in the house for up to five days.
The Reynolds, who have been married for 36 years, came forward to clear up any confusion, after police said Dorner’s hostages were housekeepers. The property where the suspect holed up is one of a cluster of holiday homes which the Reynolds lease to tourists; he would have had access to television news and the internet while he was there.
At around midday on Tuesday, the couple arrived to clean the house and found Dorner in an upstairs sitting room. His gun drawn, the suspect ordered them to stay calm. Mrs Reynolds ran down the stairs in a bid to escape, but Dorner caught her. He took the couple to a bedroom, where he made them lie on the floor, then bound their limbs with plastic zip-locks, gagged them with towels and covered their heads with pillowcases. “I thought we were dead,” Mr Reynolds said.
The gunman repeatedly insisted, however, that he would not kill them. He revealed he had watched Mr Reynolds shovelling snow around the property in the preceding days, and told the couple he believed they were “hard-working, good people,” saying: “I don’t have a problem with you. I just want to clear my name.”
Mr Reynolds said Dorner “huddled down beside me and said, ‘You’re going to be quiet, right? Not make a fuss and let me get away?’”
The couple said Dorner was calm and alert, and kept them captive for around 15 minutes.
Soon after Dorner left the couple tied up in the bedroom and drove away in their purple Nissan, Mrs Reynolds managed to climb to her feet. With her hands still bound behind her back, she called the police from her cellphone at 12.20pm, so beginning the pursuit that would lead to Dorner’s demise in the ashes of a cabin 30 miles away along icy mountain roads.
On Wednesday police insisted they did not deliberately set the blaze that consumed the building where Dorner is believed to have died, but that it probably began after CS gas was fired through the windows to flush him out.
Meanwhile the San Bernadino County sheriff’s deputy killed in the firefight with Dorner was named as 35-year old Jeremiah MacKay.
Mr MacKay had been quoted by the Associated Press agency on Saturday, saying of the hunt for Dorner: “We’re hoping this comes to a close without more casualties.”