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Fugitive ex-cop may have hidden near police

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This undated photo released by the Los Angeles Police Department shows suspect Christopher Dorner, a former Los Angeles officer.  (AP) This undated photo released by the Los Angeles Police Department shows suspect Christopher Dorner, a former Los Angeles officer. (AP)
This CBSNews.com image shows law enforcement officers surrounding a location where Christopher Dorner was believed to be holed up. This CBSNews.com image shows law enforcement officers surrounding a location where Christopher Dorner was believed to be holed up.
This Google Maps image shows the reported location where fugitive murder suspect Christopher Dorner was said to be barricaded. This Google Maps image shows the reported location where fugitive murder suspect Christopher Dorner was said to be barricaded.
Map locates key places in the hunt for Christopher Dorner Map locates key places in the hunt for Christopher Dorner

Latest Update (4:19PM) - In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, sheriff's department officials said officers did not intentionally set fire to the cabin where Christopher Dorner was believed to be hiding. An official also added the identity of the body discovered inside the cabin still has not been confirmed.

BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. (AP) — As police scoured mountain peaks for days, using everything from bloodhounds to high-tech helicopters, the revenge-seeking ex-cop they wanted was hiding among them, holed up in a vacation cabin across the street from their command post.

[NOTE: An Associated Press source reported Wednesday that Dorner's California driver's license was found inside the burned cabin along with an unidentified charred body. This information has not been confirmed by authorities.]

It was there that Christopher Dorner apparently took refuge last Thursday, four days after beginning a deadly rampage that would claim four lives.

The search ended Tuesday when a man believed to be Dorner bolted from hiding, stole two cars, barricaded himself in a vacant cabin and mounted a last stand in a furious shootout in which he killed one sheriff's deputy and wounded another before the building erupted in flames.

[LATEST NEWS FROM CBS LOS ANGELES]

He never emerged from the ruins and hours later a charred body was found inside.

"We have reason to believe that it is him," San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cynthia Bachman said.

Dorner, 33, had said in a lengthy rant police believe he posted on Facebook that he expected to die in one final, violent confrontation with police, and if it was him in the cabin that's just what happened.

[COMPLETE COVERAGE: Manhunt: Christopher Dorner]

The apparent end came very close to where his trail went cold six days earlier when his burning pickup truck — with guns and camping gear inside — was abandoned with a broken axle on a fire road in the San Bernardino National Forest near the ski resort town of Big Bear Lake.

His footprints led away from the truck and vanished on frozen soil.

With no sign of him and few leads, police offered a $1 million reward to bring him to justice and end a "reign of terror" that had more than 50 families of targeted Los Angeles police officers under round-the-clock protection after he threatened to bring "warfare" to the LAPD, officers and their kin.

Just a few hours after police announced Tuesday that they had fielded more than 1,000 tips with no sign of Dorner, word came that a man matching his description had tied up two people in a Big Bear Lake cabin, stole their car and fled. Authorities didn't immediately give more details on the two people.

Game wardens from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife who were part of the search detail spotted the purple Nissan that had been reported stolen going in the opposite direction and gave chase, department spokesman Lt. Patrick Foy said. The driver looked like Dorner.

They lost the purple car after it passed a school bus and turned onto a side road, but two other Fish and Wildlife patrols turned up that road a short time later, and were searching for the car when a white pickup truck sped erratically toward the wardens.

"He took a close look at the driver and realized it was the suspect," Foy said.

Dorner, who allegedly stole the pickup truck at gunpoint after crashing the first car, rolled down a window and opened fire on the wardens, striking a warden's truck more than a dozen times.

One of the wardens shot at the suspect as he rounded a curve in the road. It's unclear if he hit him, but the stolen pickup careened off the road and crashed in a snow bank. Dorner then ran to the cabin where he barricaded himself and got in a shootout with San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies and other officers who arrived.

Two deputies were shot, one fatally.

A SWAT team surrounded the cabin and used an armored vehicle to break out the cabin windows, said a law enforcement official who requested anonymity because the investigation was ongoing. The officers then lobbed tear gas canisters into the cabin and blasted a message over a loudspeaker: "Surrender or come out."

The armored vehicle then tore down each of the cabin's four walls.

A single shot was heard inside before the cabin was engulfed in flames, the law enforcement official told The Associated Press.

Until Tuesday, authorities weren't sure Dorner was still in Big Bear Lake, where his pickup was found within walking distance from the cabin where he hid.

Even door-to-door searches failed to turn up any trace of him in the quiet, bucolic neighborhood where children were playing in the snow Tuesday night.

With many searchers leaving town amid speculation he was long gone, the command center across the street was taken down Monday.

Ron Erickson, whose house is only about quarter mile away, said officers interrogated him to make sure he wasn't being held hostage. Erickson himself had been keeping a nervous watch on his neighborhood, but he never saw the hulking Dorner.

"I looked at all the cabins that backed the national forest and I just didn't think to look at the one across from the command post," he said. "It didn't cross my mind. It just didn't."

Police said Dorner began his run on Feb. 6 after they connected the slayings of a former police captain's daughter and her fiance with his angry manifesto.

Dorner blamed LAPD Capt. Randal Quan for providing poor representation before the police disciplinary board that fired him for filing a false report.

Dorner, who is black, claimed in his online rant that he was the subject of racism by the department and was targeted for doing the right thing.

Chief Charlie Beck, who initially dismissed Dorner's allegations, said he would reopen the investigation into his firing — not to appease the ex-officer, but to restore confidence in the black community, which had a long fractured relationship with police that has improved in recent years.

Dorner vowed to get even with those who had wronged him as part of his plan to reclaim his good name.

"You're going to see what a whistleblower can do when you take everything from him especially his NAME!!!" the rant said. "You have awoken a sleeping giant."

Within hours of being named as a suspect in the killings, the 6-foot, 270-pounder described as armed and "extremely dangerous," tried unsuccessfully to steal a boat in San Diego to flee to Mexico. After leaving a trail of evidence, he headed north where he opened fire on two patrol cars in Riverside County, shooting three officers and killing one.

With a description of his car broadcast all over the Southwest and Mexico, he managed to get to the mountains 80 miles east of Los Angeles where his burning truck was found.

Only a short distance from the truck, he spent his final days with a front-row seat to the search mobilized right outside.

THIS IS A STORY UPDATE AS OF WEDNESDAY MORNING. PREVIOUS REPORTS ARE BELOW.

(CBS 8) - Despite several reports that fugitive murder suspect Christopher Dorner's body was located inside a burned cabin near Big Bear, an LAPD spokesman made it clear officials had not recovered a body as of Tuesday evening.

In an 8 p.m. press conference, Cmdr. Andy Smith said the cabin had not been searched, and that it was still too hot for crews to enter and begin their investigation.

"Any reports of a body being found are not true," Smith said. "Any reports of that body being identified as Christopher Dorner are not true."

THIS IS A STORY UPDATE AS OF TUESDAY NIGHT. For an earlier story, read below.

BIG BEAR, Calif. (AP) — The extraordinary manhunt for the former Los Angeles police officer suspected of three murders converged Tuesday on a mountain cabin where he was believed to have barricaded himself inside, engaged in a shootout that killed a deputy and then never emerged as the home went up in flames.

A single gunshot was heard from within, and a charred body was found inside.

If the man inside proves to be Christopher Dorner, the search for the most wanted man in America over the last week would have ended the way he had expected — death, with the police pursuing him.

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. They say he threatened to bring "warfare" to officers and their families, spreading fear and setting off a search for him across the Southwest and Mexico.

"Enough is enough. It's time for you to turn yourself in. It's time to stop the bloodshed," LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said at a news conference held outside police headquarters in Los Angeles, a starkly different atmosphere than last week when officials briefed the news media under tight security with Dorner on the loose.

A short time after Smith spoke Tuesday, smoke began to rise from the cabin in the snow-covered woods near Big Bear Lake, a resort town about 80 miles east of Los Angeles. Flames then engulfed the building — images that were broadcast on live television around the world. TV helicopters showed the fire burning freely with no apparent effort to extinguish it.

"We have reason to believe that it is him," said San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cynthia Bachman, adding that she didn't know how the fire started. She noted there was gunfire between the person in the cabin and officers around the home before the blaze began.

Until Tuesday, authorities didn't know whether Dorner was still near Big Bear Lake, where they found his burned-out pickup last week.

Around 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, deputies got a report of a stolen pickup truck, authorities said. The location was directly across the street from where law enforcement set up their command post on Thursday and not far from where Dorner's pickup was abandoned. The owner of the vehicle taken Tuesday described the suspect as looking similar to Dorner.

A warden for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife traveling down Highway 38 recognized a man who fit Dorner's description traveling in the opposite direction. The officer pursued the vehicle and there was a shooting at 12:42 p.m. in which the wildlife vehicle was hit numerous times and the suspect escaped on foot after crashing his truck.

After holing up in the cabin, there was a second gunbattle with San Bernardino County deputies, two of whom were shot. One died and the other was expected to live after undergoing surgery.

"We're heartbroken," Big Bear Lake Mayor Jay Obernolte said of the deputy's death and the wounding of his colleague. "Words can't express how grateful we are for the sacrifice those men have made in defense of the community and our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families."

The man believed to be Dorner never came out of the cabin, and a single shot was heard inside before the cabin was engulfed in flames, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.

The official later told the AP that a charred body was found in the burned cabin. The official requested anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

Officials were waiting for the fire to burn out before approaching the ruins to search for a body.

Police say Dorner began his run on Feb. 6 after they connected the slayings of a former police captain's daughter and her fiance with an angry Facebook rant they said he posted. Threats against the LAPD led officials to assign officers to protect officers and their families.

Within hours of the release of photos of the 6-foot, 270-pounder described as armed and "extremely dangerous," police say, Dorner unsuccessfully tried to steal a boat in San Diego to flee to Mexico and opened fire on two patrol cars in Riverside County, shooting three officers and killing one.

Jumpy officers guarding one of the targets named in the rant shot and injured two women delivering newspapers Thursday in Torrance because they mistook their pickup truck for Dorner's.

Police found weapons and camping gear inside the charred truck in Big Bear. Helicopters using heat-seeking technology searched the forest from above while scores of officers, some using bloodhounds, scoured the ground and checked hundreds of vacation cabins — many vacant this time of year — in the area.

A snowstorm hindered the search and may have helped cover his tracks, though authorities were hopeful he would leave fresh footprints if hiding in the wilderness.

Dorner's anger with the department dated back at least five years, when he was fired for filing a false report accusing his training officer of kicking a mentally ill suspect. Dorner, who is black, claimed in the rant that he was the subject of racism by the department and fired for doing the right thing.

He said he would get even with those who wronged him as part of his plan to reclaim his good name.

"You're going to see what a whistleblower can do when you take everything from him especially his NAME!!!" the rant said. "You have awoken a sleeping giant."

Chief Charlie Beck, who initially dismissed the allegations in the rant, said reopened the investigation into his firing — not to appease the ex-officer, but to restore confidence in the black community, which long had a fractured relationship with police that has improved in recent years.

One of the targets listed in the manifesto was former LAPD Capt. Randal Quan, who represented Dorner before the disciplinary board. Dorner claimed he put the interests of the department above his.

The first victims were Quan's daughter, Monica Quan, 28, a college basketball coach, and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, 27. They were shot multiple times in their car in a parking garage near their Orange County condo.

Dorner served in the Navy, earning a rifle marksman ribbon and pistol expert medal. He was assigned to a naval undersea warfare unit and various aviation training units, according to military records. He took leave from the LAPD for a six-month deployment to Bahrain in 2006 and 2007.

He left the service on Feb. 1.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

 

 

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