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Sheriff: Cabin not purposely burned in firefight

By Greg Risling and Tami Abdollah

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 05:56 p.m. HST, Feb 13, 2013


LOS ANGELES >>  There was no question. The man standing before Rick Heltebrake on a rural mountain road was Christopher Dorner.

Clad in camouflage from head to toe and wearing a bulletproof vest packed with ammunition, the most wanted man in America was just a few feet away, having emerged from a grove of trees holding a large assault-style rifle.

As teams of officers who had sought the fugitive ex-Los Angeles police officer for a week were closing in, Dorner pointed the gun at Heltebrake and ordered him out of his truck.

"I don't want to hurt you. Start walking and take your dog," Heltebrake recalled Dorner saying during the carjacking Tuesday.

The man, who wasn't lugging any gear, got into the truck and drove away. Heltebrake, with his 3-year-old Dalmatian Suni in tow, called police when he heard a volley of gunfire erupt soon after, and then hid behind a tree.

A short time later, police caught up with the man they believe was Dorner, surrounding a cabin where he'd taken refuge after crashing Heltebrake's truck in the San Bernardino Mountains 80 miles east of Los Angeles.

A gunfight ensued in which one sheriff's deputy was killed and another wounded. After the firefight ended, a SWAT team using an armored vehicle broke out the cabin's windows and began knocking down walls. A fire started, and later, charred remains believed to be Dorner's were found.

San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said today the fire was not set on purpose.

"We did not intentionally burn down that cabin to get Mr. Dorner out," he said.

His deputies lobbed pyrotechnic tear gas into the cabin, and it erupted in flames, he said. McMahon did not say directly that the tear gas started the blaze, and the cause of the fire was under investigation.

The sheriff said authorities have not positively identified the remains. However, all evidence points to it being Dorner, he said, and the manhunt is considered over.

A wallet and personal items, including a California driver's license with the name Christopher Dorner were found in the cabin debris, an official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing probe.

The tourist community of Big Bear Lake that was the focus of the intensive manhunt was returning to normalcy today, and residents were sharing stories of the last weeks' events. None was more dramatic than Heltebrake's.

He said he wasn't panicked in his meeting with Dorner because he didn't feel the fugitive wanted to hurt him. "He wasn't wild-eyed, just almost professional," he said. "He was on a mission."

"It was clear I wasn't part of his agenda and there were other people down the road that were part of his agenda," he said.

Dorner, 33, had said in a rant that authorities believe he posted on Facebook last week that he expected to die, with the police chasing him, as he carried out a revenge campaign against the Los Angeles Police Department for firing him.

The end came in the same mountain range where Dorner's trail went cold six days earlier, after his pickup truck — with guns and camping gear inside — was found abandoned and on fire near Big Bear Lake.

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

Deputies searched hundreds of cabins in the area and then, in a blinding snowstorm, SWAT teams with bloodhounds and high-tech equipment in tow widened their search.

Authorities for the most part looked at cabins boarded up for the winter, said Dan Sforza, assistant chief of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and often didn't enter occupied homes where nothing appeared amiss.

One of the major remaining questions is how Dorner eluded such an intensive search. Remarkably, the cabin where he hid out at least part of the time was a stone's throw from the searchers' command post.

San Bernardino County Deputy Chief Steve Kovensky said Wednesday that searchers did not see any forced entry to the cabin when it was checked. But he could not provide details about exactly when the check was made, and did not say whether it ever was re-checked.

Dorner's cover was blown Tuesday when two women arrived to clean the cabin, said Lt. Patrick Foy of the state Fish and Wildlife Department.

With three killings behind him and law enforcement still on the hunt, Dorner didn't shoot them. Instead, he tied up the women and stole their purple Nissan. Sparing the housekeepers ultimately would start the chain of events that would lead to his undoing.

One of the women broke free and called 911, Foy said, and the chase was on.

About 20 miles away, two game wardens spotted the car on a meandering road along a scenic lake behind two school buses, and deputies planned to throw down spike strips to puncture the vehicle's tires, authorities said.

Dorner seemed to anticipate the move, pulling close behind the buses to give officers no space to drop the strips, Foy said. Dorner had warned — even boasted — in the rant that he knew police tactics and techniques as well as the officers pursuing him.

The purple Nissan then disappeared.

Heltebrake, a ranger who takes care of a Boy Scout camp nearby, said he just had lunch and was checking the perimeter of the camp for anything out of the ordinary when he saw someone emerge from the trees, and instantly recognized Dorner.

Meantime, officers trying to find the fugitive quickly realized he must have turned onto a side road, but for a few minutes nobody involved in the chase knew he had changed vehicles.

Then game wardens saw Heltebrake's truck making erratic moves and saw a man fitting Dorner's description behind the wheel. And then the shooting started.

Dorner fired at wardens as he drove. A warden then stopped his vehicle and fired multiple rounds at the truck from his high-powered, semi-automatic rifle. He apparently missed.

"If he had been struck it would have caused so much damage immediately that he (the warden) probably would have known," Foy said.

Out of options after crashing the pickup, Dorner made a break for a cabin and barricaded himself inside.

With the standoff under way, officers lobbed tear gas canisters into the cabin. A single shot was heard inside before the cabin was engulfed in flames, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

San Bernardino Sheriff's Deputy Jeremiah MacKay was killed, and another deputy, Alexander Collins, was wounded at the cabin. MacKay, a detective who had been with the department 15 years, had a wife, a 7-year-old daughter and a 4-month-old son, sheriff's officials said.

Police said Dorner began his run Feb. 6 after they connected the Feb. 3 slayings of a former Los Angeles police captain's daughter and her fiance with his angry manifesto.

Dorner blamed former Capt. Randal Quan for providing poor representation before a police disciplinary board that fired him for filing a false report. Dorner, who is black, claimed he was the subject of racism by the department and was targeted for reporting misconduct within the department.

House after police named Dorner as a suspect in the double murder, he shot at two LAPD officers, grazing one in the head, and then ambushed two Riverside officers, killing Officer Michael Crain. His funeral was Wednesday.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who initially dismissed Dorner's allegations, has 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 tense relationship with police that has improved in recent years.

A $1 million reward had been offered for Dorner's capture and conviction. LAPD Officer Alex Martinez said the mayor's office will determine if the money is paid out.

"I don't think there's going to be a reward," he said. "Remember, it's capture and conviction. There was no capture and no conviction. It's kind of a no-brainer."







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palani wrote:
Since the LAPD had declared Dorner a "domestic terrorist", I thought for sure that Obama, or at least one of his faceless bureaucrats, would have droned him.
on February 13,2013 | 04:07AM
JohnClark wrote:
It's no coincidence that this happened in Los Angeles. Dorner wasn't real. He is in fact a Hollywood antihero in the model of James Bond. What happened is he set everybody up, at the cabin at Big Bear. He created a dummy skeletal figure in a uniform, fired off some bullets, left his California drivers licence, then set the place on fire before sneaking out the back. They'll find some unrecognizable charred bones which will keep the cops happy and satisfied for the next few days, and the media swooning with updates. But he gained a few days and made fools of them all! We will follow his amazing adventures swimming across rivers underwater, and paragliding across the border. He will turn up in a few weeks' time, sitting at a Monte Carlo bar swigging a few drinks, picking up girls, speaking with an Australian accent, and will win next year's Academy Award for best actor.
on February 13,2013 | 05:15AM
IAmSane wrote:
Worst movie, ever.
on February 13,2013 | 07:07AM
Upperkula wrote:
you are probably so right on this.
on February 13,2013 | 07:14AM
64hoo wrote:
don't even put james bond into it, bond never murfered young unarmed women. so don't put in a model as james bond.
on February 13,2013 | 05:25PM
Bdpapa wrote:
I hope they got this coward.
on February 13,2013 | 05:26AM
Morimoto wrote:
Everyone has their breaking point and he felt like he was doing the right thing. I don't doubt he was treated unfairly and suffered discrimination but at the same time it's pretty hard to justify his actions. That said, he's definitely not a coward. He knew he was going on a suidice mission.
on February 13,2013 | 08:53AM
cojef wrote:
A foolish paranoid who loved himself more than anyone else, including his family. Narcissum, thus all the photos about himself in military gear and police uniform. It was always about himself. Granted there still remains a degree of racism everywhere, but there are ways to deal with it, without resorting to shoot-outs. If racism was his problem he could have filed a complaint with the EEO Commision to investigate his allegations. I too felt some of his pangs but resolved mine by seeking EEO Commision support.
on February 13,2013 | 11:15AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Anyone who targets the family of those he's angry at is a coward. Why didn't Johnny big nuts go after the people he had issues with? He was a coward!
on February 13,2013 | 03:19PM
Toneyuki wrote:
I don't doubt he was treated unfairly and suffered discrimination REALLY? And you base this on what? Comments on twitterverse? The dude was nuts and was fired from the LAPD. If he was treated unfairly or discriminated against then he had lots of avenues to pursue. First of which would be to contact his UNION REP. Murder is NOT EVER the answer. And the fact that you are defending his is SICK.
on February 13,2013 | 09:13PM
Bully wrote:
It should be obvious if its his body, the guy was 270 lbs.
on February 13,2013 | 06:02AM
pgkemp wrote:
what if charbroiled?
on February 13,2013 | 06:33AM
walaau808 wrote:
It will be a well done 270 lbs. - maybe take 20% off give or take.
on February 13,2013 | 08:15AM
FrankieT wrote:
All three of you are sick, get a life
on February 13,2013 | 02:04PM
DABLACK wrote:
They're going to re-open the investigation ?? Somebody's head gotta roll ! The LAPD need to come clean or suffer another fiasco. Their "ole boys club"/politics gotta go ! OR control the re-investigation.
on February 13,2013 | 06:59AM
FrankieT wrote:
Yea right, you have it all figured out. Not!
on February 13,2013 | 02:05PM
Bdpapa wrote:
Obviously he was not LAPD material. He did not have what it takes.
on February 13,2013 | 03:20PM
Holomua wrote:
I thought they found his wallet at the San Diego airport.
on February 13,2013 | 07:36AM
ymanalohyn wrote:
Good thinking Holomua i was thinking the same....
on February 13,2013 | 08:27AM
dkk wrote:
They found it Feb 7 in SD. He must have several. And they must be fireproof, his body charred, DL ok?? Sounds like when Mohammede Atta's passport "found" intact in WTC rubble. Like the 9/11 shibai, this one also stinks to high heaven. Wake up America, Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman did not go down shooting. Social Security is not the problem. FHB makes $200 million a year in oligopoly profits off the guililble population here. That not being enough they drive the rail scam on the people of Hawaii.
on February 13,2013 | 09:22AM
Toneyuki wrote:
What on earth does this have to do with it?
on February 13,2013 | 09:15PM
localguy wrote:
Home owner has already retained an attorney to sue the responsible law enforcement agencies, ensuring they fully reimburse the home owner for all rebuilding costs. No way will the home owner's insurance pay for it, a hit against the owner.
on February 13,2013 | 02:46PM
sleepy wrote:
I love happy endings!!!!!!!
on February 13,2013 | 03:00PM
ezridah wrote:
was shooting the two women in the pickup not intentional too ?
on February 13,2013 | 03:18PM
HOSSANA wrote:
Intentiona or non-intentional, as long as that PUNK BURNED in hell...so what the hell is the difference and who cares!!!!
on February 13,2013 | 03:21PM
Anonymous wrote:
Notice how eager the Left were looking for ways to pin the murders at Sandy Hook on a "Ring Wing" gun nut Adam Lanza but it turns out that Lanza was a student of the"Liberal Arts", which is the specialty of aspiring Liberals.

Now when Christopher Dorner has admitted he is a Liberal through his support of President Obama and listed many Liberal commentators such as Chris Matthews, the Libs try to downplay Dorner's murderous rampage as a victim and how "sensitive" a guy the murderer Dorner is.

It is absolutely disgusting, shameless and nauseating how the Left in the media have become. No Liberal bias in the mainstream Media? BS!


on February 13,2013 | 03:46PM
kennysmith wrote:
i my self call LAPD a bad people to.
on February 13,2013 | 07:03PM
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