Dorner manhunt: Highway 38 to Big Bear reopens
Highway 38, a primary route in and out of Big Bear, where a massive search for a fugitive ex-cop is underway, was reopened Saturday after being closed because of heavy snow, the California Highway Patrol said.The road was closed at 3:14 p.m. Friday and reopened about 6 a.m. Saturday. The closure further complicated the days-long hunt for Christopher Jordan Dorner, the 33-year-old former Los Angeles police officer suspected of killing three people.
Law enforcement has been following tracks left in the snow and going door-to-door in search of Dorner amid a storm that dumped at least eight inches of snow on the mountain Friday.
The snow slowed the search but did not halt it, said Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. The aerial search was grounded overnight due to weather. The ground search also was suspended but resumed at 7 a.m. Saturday.
A media briefing scheduled for noon Saturday was canceled late Friday night.
Although following tracks led only to frustration Friday, authorities were relieved by the break in a week of extraordinary interconnected violence.
Police say that Dorner has killed three people and wounded two others in a campaign to take revenge on those he blamed for his dismissal from the LAPD four years ago. Investigators are scrutinizing a manifesto that they believe was published on Dorner's Facebook page.
In the screed, Dorner allegedly threatened "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" against police officers and their families, saying that he has no choice but to kill to reclaim his damaged reputation.
Police accuse him of killing the daughter of a retired LAPD captain and her fiance, who were found shot to death Sunday in a car in Irvine. Early Thursday, police said, Dorner shot three police officers, one fatally, in Riverside County.
With warnings on radio and TV that an armed and deadly fugitive remained at large, police spent hours chasing down bogus leads and erroneous sightings.
According to various tips, Dorner was reported to be driving a white Lexus near Barstow. He was spotted entering the county jail in downtown Los Angeles. He was holed up in a hotel in San Diego or in a park in Norco or at a home next to the Barona Indian Reservation in San Diego County. None of those leads checked out, and authorities are considering false reporting charges against one person who they believe is more prankster than tipster.
"When you're dealing with a case that's getting this amount of press coverage, you're going to get your share of bad information," said Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI, whose agents searched Dorner's home in Las Vegas and are investigating a package that CNN received, apparently from Dorner, that made various threats.
Federal and local authorities also searched the home of his mother, Nancy Dorner, in La Palma, carrying out bags of potential evidence.
With the possibility that Dorner was in the vicinity and the accompanying potential for violence, the Bear Valley Unified School District closed all its campuses Friday, and nervous residents locked their doors and made other preparations.
Roger Curtis, a retired carpenter who lives in Big Bear, said he was watching the manhunt on TV when a car alarm sounded.
"I got the guns and loaded them," he said.
Many residents suspect that Dorner high-tailed it out of the area, but others believe he could be hunkered down in one of many vacant, half-hidden cabins that stud the surrounding landscape.
Authorities can only speculate about Dorner's familiarity with the terrain and preparedness to brave a winter storm. Nancy Dorner owns property about 35 miles away in Arrowbear Lake, according to county records. Dorner, who was trained as a police officer and a Navy Reserve officer, learned to hunt in the Utah wilderness as a college student.
The National Weather Service had predicted that temperatures would plunge to 16 degrees early Saturday, with the wind chill making it equivalent to 6 below zero.
-- Phil Willon, Joseph Serna, Kenneth R. Weiss and Matt Stevens
Photo: Snow covers a law enforcement vehicle Friday in Big Bear. Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press.