A sheriff’s spokeswoman says charred human remains have been found in the burned-out cabin where a fugitive former Los Angeles police officer was believed to be.
San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller says the remains were found late on Tuesday after a shootout that killed one sheriff’s deputy and injured another. Authorities believe Christopher Dorner barricaded himself inside the cabin and a fire later ensued.
Investigators will attempt to determine if the remains are Dorner’s through forensic tests.
Thousands of officers had been on the hunt for the former Navy reservist since police said he launched a campaign to exact revenge against the Los Angeles Police Department for his firing.
Police had been searching the snow-covered woods near Big Bear Lake, a resort town about 130 kilometres east of Los Angeles, after Dorner’s truck was found late last week.
The disgruntled 33-year-old had allegedly already killed three people before going on the run last week, after posting a chilling online manifesto threatening to kill more officers.
He was cornered in the snow-covered San Bernardino mountains after nearly a week-long manhunt, which focused on Big Bear before expanding amid reported sightings elsewhere in California and a suggestion that he had fled to Mexico.
The Los Angeles Times said a single shot was heard as police moved in on the cabin, suggesting Dorner may have taken his own life, although that was not confirmed.
Officers broke the cabin windows, pumped in tear gas and called for Dorner to surrender over a loudspeaker, the Los Angeles Times said. When they got no reply, they deployed a vehicle to rip down the cabin walls.
It did so “one by one, like peeling an onion”, a law enforcement official told the newspaper. When it got to the last wall, a single gunshot was heard, before flames began to spread through the structure.
Smith, the LAPD spokesman, said the confrontation began after a vehicle was reported stolen from another cabin near Big Bear by someone who looked like Dorner.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s office immediately launched a ground and air search, and located the vehicle nearby.
“Shortly thereafter, this individual barricaded himself in one of the cabins there and an exchange of gunfire occurred. During that exchange of gunfire, two officers were injured,” Smith said.
KTLA 5 said more than 200 officers had surrounded the cabin near Big Bear, where Dorner’s pickup truck was found last week shortly after the manhunt was launched.
Local media had earlier reported that the suspect had tied up a couple in a cabin before fleeing. Smith did not confirm those details and insisted that police remain on alert until Dorner is confirmed as dead or captured.
“Until Christopher Dorner has been identified as deceased or has handcuffs in jail we will continue as though he is still out there ... we want to make sure that the citizens of LA are safe,” said the LAPD spokesman.
Police launched a massive manhunt last week for Dorner, after he allegedly killed a couple and a policeman, and injured another three officers, while pledging online to kill officers in revenge for his 2008 sacking.
The disgruntled ex-cop threatened to murder police and their families in his rambling manifesto, pledging to “bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform whether on or off duty”.
Some 50 LAPD officers and families had been placed under special protection. The couple murdered two weeks ago included the daughter of a former LAPD officer linked to Dorner’s dismissal.
Reuters in Los Angeles and Associated Press in Big Bear Lake, California