Conspiracy theorists have come out of the woodwork to argue that police in a firefight near Big Bear yesterday purposefully introduced incendiary tear gas into a cabin to burn suspect Christopher Dorner alive.
Many blame the LAPD for the apparent demise of the ex-cop in an Angelus Oaks cabin, but the department confirmed to the Weekly that its officers were not involved in the action: They were only on standby in the area to “offer support,” we were told:
This was the San Bernardino County Sheriff's war. (And if you think that's an exaggeration, note that Sheriff-Coroner John McMahon called the area a “war zone”).
Pyrotechnic tear gas is known to be flammable and has been criticized following its use in the FBI's deadly Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas in 1993.
And 11 people died in what is being called the MOVE standoff with police in Philadelphia in 1985 after tear gas canisters set a residence occupied by activists on fire.
But the LAPD tells us that the department still uses pyrotechnic tear gas as part of its arsenal.
It wasn't clear if the department has an escalating use-of-force policy like the one that seemed to be utilized by the San Bernardino cops yesterday: They used a less-flammable form of tear gas before resorting to the incendiary variety.
San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner denied that his deputies intended to burn the cabin, and Dorner, into eternity:
It was not on-purpose. We did not intentionally burn down that cabin to get Mr. Dorner out.
Law enforcement critics noted that police radio traffic might indicate that the fire was intentional. Cops were heard saying:
We're gonna go forward with the plan, with, er, with the burn. We want it, er, like we talked about. … Seven burners [tear gas canisters] deployed and we have a fire.
We're going to burn him out … Burn this motherfucker!
— TvInstallersLA.Com (@TvInstallersLA) February 12, 2013
In general, here's what the LAPD's own guidelines say about “use of chemical agents:”
To minimize injury to suspects, officers, and others or to avoid property damage, the use of a chemical agent, such as tear gas, may be necessary in circumstances where a serious danger to life and property exists and other methods of control or apprehension would be ineffective or more dangerous.
The field commander at a police situation has the responsibility for determining the need for the use of a chemical agent and the authority to direct its deployment. In no event, however, can authorization for the use of a chemical agent be given by an officer below the rank of Sergeant or Detective. The use of a chemical agent for crowd or riot control must be authorized by an officer of the rank of Commander or higher.