Police Recover Body, Likely Dorner's, From Charred Cabin

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 13 2013 9:34 AM

Police Recover Body, Likely Dorner's, From Charred Cabin

UPDATE: Police are still moving cautiously this morning, but it appears likely that the manhunt is finally over. Investigators have now recovered a body from what remains of the charred cabin, and are in the process of identifying them, a process that could take days if not weeks.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

"We have reason to believe that it is him," San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Cynthia Bachman told reporters late Tuesday.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says that his department won't consider the case closed until a positive ID comes through, and officials tell the Los Angeles Times that the force remains on tactical alert, but all signs suggest that Dorner is now dead. "It is a bittersweet night," Beck said. “This could have ended much better, it could have ended worse."

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UPDATE Tuesday, 11:14 a.m.: Hold on one second.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department just briefed the media and the big takeaway was that the remains of the charred cabin are still too hot for investigators to enter. That means that investigators have not found a charred body within the building—as had been reported by the AP, CNN, and others—and they certainly have not identified a body as belonging to Chris Dorner.

While police still believe that the suspect—believed to be Dorner—remained inside the building as it burned down, they say it could take several more hours before they can enter the building. Once they do, assuming they find a body, it's a safe bet that we'll have to wait a few days before a positive ID can be made. In the meantime, the manhunt for Dorner technically continues.

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UPDATE 10:25 p.m.: It appears as though the manhunt for Chris Dorner, the ex-cop believed to have killed two police officers and two others, is now over. The Associated Press reports that the man inside the cabin that had been surrounded by police this afternoon "never emerged" as the structure went up in flames this evening:

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.

It will likely take some time for police to officially ID the charred body, but all signs point to it being Dorner's.

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UPDATE 8:20 p.m.: As you can see in the live feed below, the cabin that police had surrounded is now on fire, with a tall plume of black smoke rising from the flames. Other than that, we don't really know what's happening inside the cabin or around it at the moment.

Local police still haven't said with complete certainty that the suspect believed to be inside the cabin in question is in fact Chris Dorner, although all indications suggest that it is. They also haven't been able to confirm that the suspect is even still in the building that is now on fire. The authorities appear content to let the structure continue to burn for the time being. The fact that firefighters aren't currently fighting the blaze might suggest that police fear that if the man is inside or in the area he remains armed and dangerous, or that if he is not that the building may have been booby trapped in some way. It could also mean a number of other things, as the police are waiting for the (literal) smoke to clear before making an announcement.

The one concrete update we do have, however, is a sad one: One of the two sheriff deputies shot by the suspect earlier today has since died. The officer was airlifted to a local hospital this afternoon, where he later died of his wounds. Assuming that the suspect is Dorner, that means he is now allegedly responsible for the death of two police officers and two others.

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Original Post at 5:20 p.m. ET: An unfolding situation about 20 or so miles outside of Big Bear City, Calif., where authorities this afternoon reportedly exchanged fire with a man they believe to be Christopher Dorner, the former LAPD officer who had vowed to wage "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" against his former police colleagues and their families.

The situation is still developing, and very little is known for sure. But a number of reports from the scene suggest that at least two deputies were wounded during the initial shootout, and that Dorner is currently holed up in a cabin. There were also early unconfirmed reports that a wildlife and game official had also been wounded at some point.

Here's the Los Angeles Times with what their police sources are saying:

"Hundreds of rounds" were exchanged in about half an hour during the gun battle between fugitive former police officer Christopher Dorner and law enforcement officers Tuesday afternoon, sources said. At least two San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies were wounded, sources said. Their conditions were not immediately known.
Days ago, Dorner broke into a cabin off Route 38, a source said. He allegedly tied up the couple inside and held them hostage until Tuesday morning when he left. It is unclear whether Dorner stole their vehicle or another, but Fish and Wildlife officers knew to be on the lookout for a white pickup truck when they spotted Dorner driving one and attempted to stop him, the source said.
Dorner crashed the truck during the ensuing chase and allegedly exchanged gunfire with the officers as he fled into another cabin, where he was quickly surrounded by San Bernardino sheriff’s deputies. The source said one deputy was hit as Dorner fired out of the cabin and a second was injured when Dorner exited the back of the cabin, deployed a smoke bomb and opened fire again in an apparent attempt to flee. Dorner was driven back inside the cabin, the source said.

From the sounds of it, the standoff could very well continue on into the night, if not longer. The gunfire appears to have halted, and law enforcement officials have swarmed the area and reportedly have the cabin surrounded. But given Dorner's recent history, it's unlikely that police will be eager to force the situation as long as they have their man cornered. We'll update with more when have concrete details.

For those who haven't been following this story, a quick refresher. Dorner is a former Navy reservist who was fired from the LAPD back in 2008 after filing what was found to be a false report accusing a fellow cop of abuse. Dorner, who has been described by police as armed and extremely dangerous, is believed to have already killed at least three people, and twice opened fire on unsuspecting police officers on patrol before today.

Part of the reason that authorities are on edge is because of a rambling, 6,000-word note that Dorner posted on his Facebook page that included complaints of severe depression and vows to kill police officers to avenge his dismissal from the force. The LAPD were alerted to the existence of the note last Wednesday, three days after Monica Quan and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, were found shot in their car in a parking garage outside their home in Irvine. Quan, 28, is the daughter of Randal Quan, a former LAPD captain turned lawyer who represented Dorner in his failed attempts to keep his job. Randal Quan was also among those with ties to the force that were named in Dorner's manifesto, which promised "to bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" to his former colleagues and department.

Police in Los Angeles and Irvine went public with their manhunt this past Wednesday. Hours later a pair of LAPD officers who were en route to provide security to one of Dorner's possible targets had a run-in with the driver of a pickup truck, believed to be Dorner. The man opened fire with a rifle, with one bullet grazing an officer's head. Later that same night, two different officers on routine patrol were ambushed at a stoplight by a motorist, again believed to be Dorner, who pulled up alongside them and opened fire. One of the officers died and the other was seriously wounded, according to police.

Last week, Big Bear was on lockdown as authorities searched for Dorner. But those efforts had appeared to turn up empty, and the manhunt, at least publicly, spread across the region.

This post has been updated with additional information as it became available.

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