Dorner had numerous weapons, silencers, sniper rifle, officials say
Officials said they recovered 10 silencers, assault weapons, a sniper rifle, a "tactical style" vest and military helmet.
Sheriff John McMahon praised the work of his deputies throughout the standoff.
“Our deputies performed flawlessly,” he said at a Friday press conference.
He said officials believe Dorner hid for days in a vacant condo near Big Bear. He said the condo was covered by a search by deputies over the weekend.
“Our deputy knocked on that door and did not get an answer, and in hindsight it's probably a good thing that he did not answer based on his actions before and after that event,” McMahon said.
Dorner died of a single gunshot to the head, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department officials said Friday.
Officials said it appears the wound was self-inflicted but said a final determination has not been made.
Several experts said they believe that deputies' actions that set off the fire that ended the standoff appear to be justified.
"I don't understand what the big deal is," said Geoffery Alpert, a professor at the University of South Carolina who also specializes in police tactics. "This man had already shot two officers and was suspected of murdering other people. He wasn't responding in a rational manner. The actions you take have to remove the threat, and if it requires extreme measures, then so be it."
McMahon at a Wednesday news conference adamantly denied that deputies intended to burn the cabin down. But the department on Thursday declined to answer further questions about the standoff.
Sources, however, have provided details of what happened.
The day's light was fading when the SWAT officers decided they could wait no longer for Dorner to surrender.Dorner ignored repeated calls over a loudspeaker to surrender. Attempts to flush him out with tear gas led nowhere.
Wanting to end the standoff before nightfall, members of the sheriff's SWAT unit carried out a plan they had devised for a final assault on the cabin, according to law enforcement sources. An officer drove a demolition vehicle up to the building and methodically tore down most of its walls, the sources said.
With the cabin's interior exposed, the officer got on the radio to others awaiting his order. "We're going to go forward with the plan, with the burner," the unidentified officer said, according to a recording of police radio transmissions reviewed by The Times.
"The burner" was shorthand for a grenade-like canister containing a more powerful type of tear gas than had been used earlier. Police use the nickname because of the intense heat the device gives off, often starting a fire.
"Seven burners deployed," another officer responded several seconds later, according to the transmission which has circulated widely among law enforcement officials. "And we have a fire."
Within minutes, the cabin was fully engulfed in flames, ending a dramatic manhunt that captivated the nation.
The SWAT radio transmission, in addition to the comments of at least one officer who earlier in the gun battle could be heard by a TV reporter calling for the cabin to be burned down, have raised questions as to whether authorities intentionally set the structure on fire to end the standoff.
Multiple sources, who were at the scene and asked that their names not be used because they were not authorized to discuss the case, said the decision to use the incendiary gas canisters came amid mounting concern that time and options were running out.
Dorner, they said, had not communicated with police at any point during the siege and had continued to fire off rounds at them with high-caliber weapons. "Any time they moved, this guy was shooting," one source said. Bringing large floodlights into the area was deemed too dangerous, and police worried Dorner might have night-vision goggles that would give him an advantage.
When they eventually moved in with the demolition vehicle and began to get glimpses into the cabin as the walls were torn down, Dorner's whereabouts and condition were unknown. On the radio transmission, one officer describes seeing blood splattered inside the cabin and another reports hearing a single gunshot being fired, raising the possibility that Dorner may have killed himself before the fire engulfed the cabin.
On Thursday, the Sheriff's Department announced dental records had confirmed what had been widely assumed since the showdown — that the charred body found in the cabin rubble was Dorner's. The test results brought to a close the epic manhunt.
-- Phil Willon, Joel Rubin and Andrew Blankstein
Photo: Dorner's rifle. Credit: Phil Willon / L.A. Times