Dorner manhunt: Wildlife warden who fired on suspect was ex-Marine
The actions of alert wildlife officers Tuesday may have set in motion Christopher Dorner’s last stand -- in a snow-covered cabin. Law enforcement surrounded the cabin, believed to be where Dorner had barricaded himself, and, after calls for the suspect to surrender, the structure burst into flames.
Dorner, whose alleged crimes have kept Southern California on edge for days, is wanted in connection with the slayings of an engaged couple and two law enforcement officers. Details of the chase over icy rural roads emerged late Tuesday night, as authorities pieced together what appear to be the suspect's last desperate movements.
Wardens from California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife had been called in to patrol the rugged terrain of California 38, and it was on that highway that the officers first encountered the suspect who they believed to be Dorner fleeing in a stolen car. The wildlife officials engaged the suspect in a white-knuckle chase in which the suspect commandeered two different vehicles, authorities said.
The pursuit culminated in what officials described as a wild shootout between the man and one of the wardens. The suspect rolled down his window and opened fire into the approaching Fish and Wildlife truck as the vehicles passed just two feet apart, officials said. The shots shattered the driver's side window and damaged the state truck.
The warden, a 35-year-old former Marine, jumped out and fired 20 rounds from a high-powered rifle as the suspect fled in a hijacked truck, officials said.
Sources said the warden, who has been with the department for 2 1/2 years, had never fired his weapon in the line of duty, nor had he ever been fired on in his state job.
The man believed to be Dorner subsequently crashed the truck and ran into the woods, authorities said. Police said he ended up at the Seven Oaks Mountain Cabins, a cluster of wood-frame buildings about halfway between Big Bear Lake and Yucaipa. The suspect exchanged gunfire with San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies as he fled into a cabin that locals described as a single-story, multi-room structure.
Two San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies were shot; one was pronounced dead at a hospital, while another underwent surgery, officials said. Hundreds of rounds were fired in the gun battle.
Just before 5 p.m., authorities smashed the cabin's windows, pumped in tear gas and called for the suspect to surrender. They got no response, officials said. Then, using a demolition vehicle, they tore down the cabin's walls one by one. When they reached the last wall, they heard a gunshot. Then the cabin burst into flames, authorities said.
Charred human remains have been found in the debris of the burned-out, they said.
Investigators will attempt to identify the remains through forensic means, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said he would not consider the manhunt over until the body was identified as Dorner.
-- Phil Willon in Angelus Oaks, and Julie Cart, Matt Stevens and Rong-Gong Lin II in Los Angeles