Fugitive Christopher Dorner believed inside a cabin that burned down

Los Angeles police find charred human remains inside a burnt-out cabin after a deadly shootout with a man believed to be a fugitive ex-officer

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 February, 2013, 4:02am

When authorities hemmed in the man they suspected of killing three people in a campaign of revenge that gripped Southern California, he responded as they had feared: with smoke bombs and a barrage of gunfire.

The suspect, who police believe is fugitive former policeman Christopher Dorner, had shot dead one San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy and injured another. He then barricaded himself in a wood cabin outside Big Bear in the snow-blanketed San Bernardino Mountains.

Just before 5pm, authorities smashed the cabin's windows, pumped in tear gas and called for the suspect to surrender. They got no response. Then, using a demolition vehicle, they tore down the cabin's walls one by one. When they reached the last wall, they heard a gunshot.

Then the cabin burst into flames. The sheriff's office said later that "charred human remains" had been located inside.

"We believe he was still inside the cabin" when it went up in flames, Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, said. One report said a wallet and personal items, including a California driver's licence with the name Christopher Dorner was found in the cabin.

The stand-off appeared to end a week-long hunt for the former LA police officer and Navy reserve lieutenant, who is also suspected of killing an Irvine couple and a Riverside police officer. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said he would not consider the manhunt over until the body was identified as Dorner's.

On Tuesday morning, two maids entered a cabin in the 1200 block of Club View Drive near Big Bear Lake and ran into a man who they said resembled the fugitive, a law enforcement official said. The cabin was not far from where Dorner's singed truck had been found last week and where police had been holding news conferences.

The man tied up the maids, and he took off in a purple Nissan parked near the cabin. One maid later broke free and called police.

Nearly half an hour later, officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife spotted the stolen vehicle and called for back-up. The suspect tried to elude the officers but crashed the vehicle.

We believe he was still inside the cabin when it went up in flames

A short time later, authorities said the suspect carjacked a light-coloured pick-up truck.

Allan Laframboise said the truck belonged to his friend, Rick Heltebrake, who works at a nearby Boy Scout camp.

Heltebrake was driving on Glass Road with his Dalmatian, Suni, when a hulking black man stepped on to the road, Laframboise said. Heltebrake stopped. The man told him to get out of the truck. "Can I take my dog?" Heltebrake asked, according to his friend.

"You can leave and you can take your dog," the man said. He then sped off in the Dodge extended-cab pickup - and quickly encountered two Department of Fish and Wildlife trucks.

As the suspect zoomed past the officers, he rolled down his window and fired about 15 to 20 rounds. One of the officers jumped out and shot back.

The suspect exchanged gunfire with San Bernardino sheriff's deputies as he fled into Seven Oaks Mountain Cabins that locals described as a single-storey, multi-room structure.

The suspect fired from the cabin, striking one deputy. Then he ducked out the back of the cabin, deployed a smoke bomb and opened fire again, hitting a second deputy. The suspect retreated back into the cabin.

The gun battle was captured on TV by local KCAL 9 reporter Carter Evans, who said he was about 60 metres from the cabin. As Evans described on air how deputies were approaching the structure, he was interrupted by 10 seconds of gunfire.

The gunfire gave way to a tense stand-off.

Within hours, authorities moved in on the cabin. The fire broke out, setting off ammunition that was apparently inside.

After his truck was found in Big Bear, authorities swarmed the area, where many of the roughly 400 cabins sit empty during the winter.

Just as some officials began to speculate that Dorner failed to survive in the wilderness, he apparently surfaced.

The New York Times, McClatchy Tribune, Reuters, Associated Press