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Authorities search door-to-door in Big Bear in hunt for former cop

This post has been corrected. See note at bottom for details.

Authorities confirmed Thursday that a door-to-door search for an ex-L.A. police officer wanted in connection with a string of shootings was underway in Big Bear after his vehicle was found burning on a forest road.

San Bernardino Sheriff John McMahon said officials matched the VIN number on the burnt truck to that of suspect Christopher Jordan Dorner, 33, the subject of an intensive hours-long manhunt that stretched across Southern California.

Big Bear Lake Fire Department Asst. Chief Mark Mills told The Times that fresh tracks spotted in the snow were believed to be Dorner's.

PHOTOS: Manhunt for ex-LAPD officer

McMahon declined to reveal details about what was inside the truck or how it caught fire but said authorities had confirmed Dorner was not inside. He did not discuss which direction Dorner might have traveled.

Authorities were going door-to-door in the mountain community that includes thousands of homes, of which authorities guessed about 40% were not occupied year-round. Extra patrols were brought in to check vehicles coming and going from Big Bear, McMahon said, but no vehicles had been reported stolen.

"He could be anywhere at this point," McMahon said. When asked if the burnt truck was a possible diversion, McMahon replied: "Anything's possible."

TIMELINE: Manhunt for ex-LAPD officer

Dorner had no known connection to the area, authorities said.

Television footage showed a fatigue-clad SWAT team combing the woods, rifles pointed, and the truck being towed away. Federal authorities later ordered media helicopters away from the area.

McMahon called Thursday a "sad and tragic day for all of us in law enforcement."

FULL COVERAGE: Sweeping manhunt for rampaging ex-cop

Several law enforcement agencies are involved in the manhunt for Dorner and alerts have been issued all across California and in Nevada. The Los Angeles Police Department had dispatched units across the region to protect at least 40 officers and others named in a rambling online manifesto that law enforcement officials attributed to Dorner.

Dorner, who was fired from the LAPD in 2009, is suspected of shooting three police officers, one of whom died, in Riverside County early Thursday.

Dorner also is suspected of killing a couple in Orange County earlier this week who were found shot in a car. One of the victims was the daughter of a former LAPD captain named in the purported manifesto.

Dorner was believed to be carrying multiple weapons, including an assault rifle.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Searching for suspected shooter

Law enforcement authorities said they were concerned about Dorner's military background and weapons training. The lengthy online message allegedly written by the former Navy Reserve lieutenant threatened "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" against police.

Dorner received awards for his expertise with a rifle and pistol, according to military records obtained by The Times. He received an Iraq Campaign Medal and was a member of a mobile inshore undersea warfare unit.

Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz, calling the attack a "cowardly ambush," said Dorner is suspected of opening fire with a rifle about 1:30 a.m. Thursday as he pulled up to two police officers waiting at a traffic light.

DOCUMENT: Read the manifesto

The attack was carried out about 20 minutes after Dorner wounded an LAPD officer in a shooting in nearby Corona, police said.

Early Thursday, two women delivering newspapers in Torrance were shot by Los Angeles police who were guarding an officer named in the manifesto.

The women, shot in the 19500 block of Redbeam Avenue, were taken to area hospitals, Torrance Police Lt. Devin Chase said. One suffered a minor wound, and the other was struck twice and listed in stable condition, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told reporters.

"Tragically," Beck said, "we believe this is a case of mistaken identity."

For The Record: 02/08 7:04 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that there are 400 homes in Big Bear. There a thousands. The post also incorrectly stated that 40% of the homes are occupied. Officials said about 40% of the residences are vacation homes that are likely not occupied.

ALSO:

Cop-killer is 'sick,' Villaraigosa says in touting gun control

Fugitive ex-cop stayed in San Diego hotel; military bases on alert

Manhunt: Ex-LAPD cop thought to have stalked victims, sources say

-- Kate Mather, Andrew Blankstein, Joseph Serna, Robert Lopez and Phil Willon

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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