Christopher Dorner is not dead, San Bernardino County Sheriff's spokeswoman Cindi Bachman told reporters near Big Bear tonight. But she said authorities believe the suspect who holed up in a cabin and shot it out with cops today “is still inside there even though the building burned.”
The remains of the fugitive ex-cop have not been identified because they were in a cabin that burned to the ground following a standoff and two shootouts with cops today. LAPD Commander Andrew Smith told journalists tonight the site was still too hot to enter:
The announcements, however, would appear to end an unprecedented, 9-day saga for Southern California in which cops were targeted by one of their former brothers in arms.
The LAPD appeared to be stretched to the limit as it provided reported 6-person security details 24 hours a day for as many as 50 families believed to be in Dorner's cross-hairs.
LAPD Chief Beck said 1,000 cops were on the Dorner case in the city of L.A. alone. A task force made up of his department, Irvine police, Riverside police, and federal authorities led one side of the manhunt while the San Bernardino department searched for Dorner in the local mountains near Big Bear.
Tonight Smith said those security details would remain and the LAPD would stay on tactical alert until Dorner's death was confirmed. Bachman said confirmation might not come until morning.
Dorner allegedly wrote a manifesto targeting certain LAPD officials after he was fired from the force in 2008 or 2009 for lying.
The ex-officer maintained that he told the truth when he reported that his training officer kicked a suspect in the head.
His alleged rampage involved the Feb.
2 3 slayings of Monica Quan and fiance Keith Lawrence in Irvine and the ambush murder of a Riverside cop Thursday morning.
His pickup was found burned out in Big Bear the same morning, setting off a massive manhunt not only in the mountain community but from Tijuana to the San Fernando Valley.
— Gabriel L. Acosta (@GLAPhoto) February 13, 2013
*[Correction]: At about 12:22 p.m. today someone reported that a suspect who appeared to be Dorner stole a vehicle. According to many reports, the victims
were two cleaning ladies who might have come upon Dorner in what was supposed to be an empty cabin were a married couple that came upon Dorner.
The pair were bound with zip ties but managed to summon authorities.
A suspect then allegedly took off with their car and at some point got his hands on a pickup truck.
A state Fish and Wildlife came across that vehicle about 20 minutes later, gave chase, and shot it out with a suspect.
Responding San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies soon found the vehicle crashed or parked near a cabin and ended up in a firefight in which one deputy died and another was critically wounded.
Shortly before 4:20 p.m. the cabin erupted in flames and gunfire was heard.
A few hours later, the building was a pile of ashes. It wasn't clear if a suspect was killed by an officer, committed suicide, burned or succumbed to carbon monoxide.
Bachman said of the suspect who fired on deputies:
We believe he was still inside the cabin.
That cabin is a pile of smoldering rubble.
[Update at 11:46 p.m.]: The sheriff's department put out what it said would be it's last statement of the night:
Investigators have located charred human remains within the debris of the burned out cabin. Identification will be attempted through forensic means.
[Update at 4:31 p.m. Wednesday]: San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner John McMahon told reporters today, “We believe that this investigation is over at this point.”
Of course, there will be more detective work following yesterday's shooting of two deputies. But McMahon was responding to a question about the positive identity of remains found in the cabin, remains he said would still need to be ID'd via forensics.
“We are not currently involved in a manhunt any longer,” he said.
McMahon identified a deputy fatally shot in the firefight as Det. Jeremiah MacKay, a 35-year-old, 15-year-veteran of the department who left behind a 7-year-old daughter, a four-month-old son and his wife.
“It's just a terrible deal for all of us,” he said.
He described how, despite “war zone” conditions that included a barrage of bullets, his deputies went into battle:
Our deputy sheriffs are some true heroes. I'm proud to be a member of this department.
[Update 3:58 p.m. Thursday]: The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department today said it has positively identified the remains from the cabin as belonging to Dorner. The department's full but brief statement:
The charred human remains located in the burned out cabin in Seven Oaks have been positively identified to be that of Christopher Dorner.
During the autopsy, positive identification was made through dental examination.
[Update at 4:38 p.m.]: The LAPD lifted about a dozen remaining protective details for department officials named in the manifesto this morning, Officer Rosario Herrera told the Weekly.
As many as 50 or so details of six-cop teams were deployed last week for 24-hour security outside the homes of those named in Dorner's alleged document, according Chief Charlie Beck and reports.
The details were reduced following Tuesday's shootout and fire.
Herrera said the department was back to normal following 7 days of vigilance and, according to police, a 1,000-officer-strong force dedicated to catching Dorner. That would mean that motorcycle traffic cops, who had been put in patrol cars as a precaution, are back on their steel horses.
All that remains for the LAPD is its own reexamination of its handling of Dorner's complaint against his training officer and subsequent firing.
And maybe a little soul searching.
[Update at 5:48 p.m. Friday]: Capt. Kevin Lacy of the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner told reporters today that Dorner might have died of a single gunshot wound to the head.
Authorities didn't go so far as to say that he committed suicide, since they had yet to confirm that the round from his weapon, but that's what it sounds like.
That scenario would be consistent with what some said they heard at the firefight — a single gunshot as the cabin Dorner was believed to be in went up in flames.
Additionally, Sheriff John McMahon, responding to questions about how his deputies could have missed the cabin during earlier sweeps for the suspect, said officers did knock on the door of that residence but that no one answered.
He said, given Dorner's alleged record of recent violence, that was probably a good thing.
Cops had been on the lookout for cabins that appeared to have been broken into and didn't take note of this particular place, he said. Authorities believe Dorner got in through a door left unlocked so that a scheduled repair or utility worker could get in.
[Added at 6:16 p.m.]: San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner reiterated this much in a statement tonight:
… The autopsy, conducted by the Riverside County Coroner's Division … revealed the cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head. The manner of death is still under investigation.
The statement also notes that, as officers were battling Dorner, they had to face a rare and deadly arsenal:
… They recovered numerous high-capacity magazines, large amounts of ammunition, numerous canisters of CS gas and smoke; tactical style load-bearing vest; and multiple assault rifles equipped with suppressors; .308 caliber bolt action rifle, equipped with scope and suppressor; semi-automatic hand guns; and a military-style Kevlar helmet.
[Note]: The original headline for this post read, “Christopher Dorner Is Dead? Seems Likely.”