The largest manhunt in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department appeared to be nearing its conclusion yesterday afternoon, as law enforcement agencies swarmed to a remote cabin close to the Southern California ski resort of Big Bear, where a former LAPD officer suspected of shooting dead four people was believed to be pinned down.
The six-day search for Christopher Dorner, 33, narrowed to the snow-fringed building after a man answering his description was spotted driving a stolen white pick-up truck nearby.
Authorities said the suspect had broken into a home close to Highway 38 some days ago, where he held hostage the two occupants – thought to be a housekeeper and her young daughter – until late yesterday morning, when he left in the stolen vehicle. One of the victims was able to get free, and called the police soon after 12.15pm.
Officers from the US Fish and Wildlife Service located the truck and gave pursuit. The suspect abandoned the vehicle and fled into the forest, ending up at the isolated cabin in the Seven Oaks area, around 20 miles from Big Bear, where he exchanged gunfire with sheriff's deputies before barricading himself in the house. At least two officers were hit in the half-hour shootout and airlifted to a local hospital. One of the deputies later died of his wounds; the other is said to be in critical condition.
Law enforcement agencies have been scouring the mountain region around Big Bear since last Thursday, when the Nissan Titan pick-up truck that Dorner was then believed to have been driving was found abandoned and burning on a forest service road.
Until yesterday, it was the final clue to the suspect's whereabouts. Police suspected he had help from an associate, named only as "JY" in court documents filed last week. The San Bernadino County Sheriff's Department reportedly conducted surveillance on a property close to Big Bear, owned by a relative of JY.
The vast hunt for Dorner began late on Wednesday 6 February, after he allegedly shot three police officers in two separate incidents in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles. One of the officers, 34-year-old Michael Crain, was killed when a man thought to be Dorner ambushed him and his partner as their car idled at traffic lights. Crain's partner was seriously wounded but survived. Dorner was formally charged with Crain's murder on Monday.
A decorated former US Navy reservist, Dorner was fired from the LAPD in 2009 for allegedly lodging a false complaint against his training officer. In a lengthy manifesto posted on his Facebook page prior to the attacks, he detailed a series of grievances against the department, and threatened police officers and their families with "warfare". Around 50 police officials and their loved ones were placed under protection after the internet posting.
One of those named in the screed was Randy Quan, a lawyer and retired LAPD captain, who represented Dorner at the tribunal that led to his dismissal. Dorner is suspected of the murder of Quan's 28-year-old daughter Monica, a college basketball coach, and her fiancé Keith Lawrence, 27, who were found shot dead in their car in Irvine, Orange County, on the evening of Sunday, 3 February. It has since emerged that Dorner called Randy Quan afterwards to taunt him about his daughter's death.
Last Wednesday evening, Dorner allegedly tried to steal a 47-foot yacht from a San Diego marina in a bid to flee to Mexico. He was thwarted when a rope lodged in the propeller.
Monica Quan, 28, the daughter of a former LAPD captain, and partner Keith Lawrence, 27, are found shot dead in their car in Irvine, California.
Irvine police announce Dorner is a suspect in the killings of Quan and Lawrence, claiming he implicated himself in a manifesto posted on Facebook, in which he named dozens of "targets" for retribution.
In Corona, California, two LAPD officers chase a vehicle they believe is Dorner's. A shootout ensues but the gunman flees. Hours later Dorner allegedly ambushes two officers, killing one, Michael Crain, 34, and wounding the other.
Dorner exchanges gunfire with police officers in Big Bear, wounding two sheriff's deputies before fleeing into the woods and barricading himself in a cabin.