Friend: Ex-cop 'last guy' expected to be manhunt murder suspect
Those who knew Christopher Jordan Dorner during college expressed shock at the news that the former college football player is allegedly responsible for shootings that have left three people dead and two wounded.
Dorner attended Southern Utah University from 1997 to 2001 and graduated with a bachelor of science with a major in political science and a minor in psychology, a university spokesman said.
Neil Gardner, an assistant athletic director who works with the student athletes in media relations, interacted with Dorner when he was on the school’s football team during the 1999 and 2000 seasons. Gardner said Dorner was a backup running back who didn’t play a lot, but was “never a disgruntled guy.”
“When he was in college he was a great kid,” Gardner said. “He was a kid you hoped would do well. He was polite. I liked him.”
Jamie Usera, an attorney in Salem, Ore., said he met Dorner in the spring of 1998 at Southern Utah. Usera, who grew up in Alaska, said he and Dorner, an African American from Southern California, bonded over their shared feelings of culture shock that came with being outsiders on the predominantly white, Mormon campus.
Usera and Dorner eventually joined the football team as running backs and became good friends, Usera said. They shared long hours on the practice field, but neither saw much playing time and both decided to quit the team after two years.
The friendship endured throughout their remaining years at the school. Usera said he introduced Dorner to the world of hunting and other outdoor sporting. Usera recalled frequent trips into the Utah desert to hunt rabbits with Dorner.
Nothing about Dorner in college raised any red flags that he was mentally unstable or capable of such violence, Usera said.
“He was a typical guy. I liked him an awful lot,” Usera said. “Nothing about him struck me as violent or irrational in any way. He was opinionated, but always seemed level-headed.”
Usera said he and Dorner frequently had lively discussions. A recurring theme was race relations in the U.S., and the two often had heated but respectful arguments about the extent of racism in the county, Usera said.
“James Usera, great friend, attorney, father, husband, and the most cynical/blatant/politically incorrect friend a man can have. Best quality about you in college and now is that you never sugar coated the truth. I will miss our political discussions that always turned argumentative. Thanks for introducing me to outdoor sports like fishing, hunting, mudding, and also respect for the land and resources. Us city boys don’t get out much like you Alaskans. You even introduced me to PBR. A beer, that when you’re a poor college student is completely acceptable to get buzzed off of. I’m sorry I’ll never get to go on that moose and bear hunt with you. I love you bro.”
Usera could not recall Dorner ever discussing a dream or plan to become a police officer. He remembered his friend talking excitedly with a Marine or Navy recruiter on campus when he was either considering enlisting or after he had already made the decision to do so.
The two lost touch quickly after graduating, Dorner said, but later reconnected out of the blue about four years ago with a phone call. Dorner made passing reference to his discipline problems with the LAPD but did not go into detail. Usera said Dorner did not seem troubled during the 10- to 15-minute conversation. A few text messages followed in the days after the call, but Usera said he had not heard from Dorner since.
“Of all the people I hung out with in college, he is the last guy I would have expected to be in this kind of situation.”
-- Joel Rubin and Matt Stevens
Photo: A SigAlert sign on the southbound 101 Freeway near Laurel Canyon Boulevard in Studio City gives a vehicle description and license plate of a car belonging to murder suspect and former LAPD Police Officer Christopher Jordan Dorner, who is still on the loose. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times