Published : 2013-02-14 20:23
Updated : 2013-02-14 20:23
LOS ANGELES (AFP) ― A former U.S. cop wanted for at least three murders is thought to have died at the scene of a shootout with police but his remains must still be identified, officials said Wednesday.
Police discovered human remains in the charred ruins of a cabin after a fire erupted during an intense gun battle in the snowy mountains east of Los Angeles, where fugitive Christopher Dorner was thought to have taken refuge.
A police officer was reported killed and another wounded in the gunfight.
The Los Angeles police lifted a state of alert in the area but kept in place protective measures for police officers and families threatened by Dorner, who is accused of targeting cops in a murder spree that began six days ago.
“We do believe that it is the body of Christopher Dorner, but we don’t know for a certainty,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said on CNN. “Until we do, those police officers that were targeted will continue to be protected.”
The San Bernardino County sheriff’s coroner said forensic means would be used to identify the remains, but it was unclear how long that might take.
“I would not make any assumptions right now,” said Los Angeles police Lieutenant Andrew Neiman. “But, again, those types of identifications can be expedited in these circumstances and I’m sure that will be done.”
Dorner, a disgruntled 33-year-old former policeman, went on the run last week after allegedly killing a couple and a police officer and wounding three people in a series of shootings.
He posted a chilling manifesto online threatening to kill more police in revenge for his 2008 sacking from the force. He vowed to “bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform whether on or off duty.”
“There are some families who are literally traumatized and they have young children,” said Neiman. “There’s great fear still, so that’s a trauma that they’re going to have to recover from.
A massive manhunt for Dorner centered on Big Bear in the San Bernardino mountains, but there were also sightings reported elsewhere in California and a suggestion that he may have fled to Mexico.
The search went into high gear on Tuesday after a vehicle was reported to have been stolen from a cabin near Big Bear by someone who looked like Dorner, police said.
Local media had earlier reported that the suspect had tied up a couple in a cabin before fleeing. Police did not confirm those reports.
Police immediately launched a ground and air search, and located the vehicle nearby.
“Shortly thereafter, this individual barricaded himself in one of the cabins there and an exchange of gunfire occurred. During that exchange of gunfire, two officers were injured,“ LAPD spokesman Lieutenant Andrew Smith said.
One of the officers later died.
The L.A. Times said a single shot was heard as police moved in on the cabin, suggesting Dorner may have taken his own life, though that was not confirmed.
Officers broke the cabin windows, pumped in tear gas and called for Dorner to surrender over a loudspeaker, the L.A. Times said. When they got no reply, they deployed a vehicle to rip down the cabin walls.
It did so “one by one, like peeling an onion,” a law enforcement official told the newspaper. When it got to the last wall, a single gunshot was heard, before flames began to spread through the structure.
Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s office, said later Dorman was believed to be inside the cabin when it caught fire.