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Dorner manhunt: Cabin not intentionally set on fire, sheriff says

February 13, 2013 |  4:37 pm

This post has been updated. See note below.

The sheriff of San Bernardino County said Wednesday afternoon that officers did not intentionally set fire to the cabin where Christopher Jordan Dorner was holed up and that the investigation was over because he believed the fugitive was killed in the standoff.

"We did not intentionally burn down that cabin to get Mr. Dorner out," Sheriff John McMahon told reporters at a news conference. 

[Updated, 4:53 p.m. Feb. 13: He said that deputies fired conventional tear gas into the cabin and then used incendiary gas on the structure, which was first reported Wednesday by The Times. The cabin burned to the ground. Dorner is believed to have died inside.]

McMahon said that he couldn't positively say that Dorner had died in the standoff at the cabin in the Big Bear area, where hundreds of rounds were fired Tuesday afternoon.

But, the sheriff said, "We believe that this investigation is over at this point." 

As authorities searched the snow-covered mountains for Dorner in the days before the shootout, he appears to have been hiding in plain sight, just a five-minute walk from where law enforcement officials from multiple agencies had centered their search operation for the ex-Los Angeles Police Department officer.

More than 200 officers were involved during the first night of search operations late last week. Sheriff’s Department officials said the search included more than 600 cabins over eight square miles.

It apparently did not include the neighborhood where Dorner was hiding. The circumstance is reminiscent of the federal government’s search for reputed Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger, who was hiding under federal agents’ noses when he was captured.

TIMELINE: Manhunt for ex-LAPD officer

"As far as I could tell, they did about as good as they could do," said Otis Farry, whose home is on Club View Drive. "Who would've known?"

Farry's home abuts the Big Bear Lake golf course, which is across the street from the neighborhood that rises into the forest.

“I figured he was back in the woods somewhere, but the guy was right across the street,” said Bruce Doucett, 55, a certified public accountant who lives in the same condominium complex as the unit where Dorner was said to be hiding. “All I can say is that it’s a bit unnerving.”

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Doucett said the condo in question had been vacant and clean since Thursday, the last time a tenant was there for a vacation rental.

Authorities aren't sure how long Dorner might have been in the condo. But Carl Macon, 53, said it was unsettling to know he walked his dog by the condo every day. He described Dorner's alleged acts as "something out of a suspense book."

Macon said his house has been tense, even after a visit by a SWAT team Thursday night as part of the cabin checks. Despite rumors Dorner might have left the mountain, Macon said he thought chances were good the fugitive had stayed — a lot of people he knew were on their toes.

FULL COVERAGE: Sweeping manhunt for ex-cop

But now, Macon said, it's "time to chill."

A former Naval Reserve lieutenant, Dorner allegedly threatened "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" against police in a lengthy manifesto that authorities say he posted on Facebook. The posting named dozens of potential targets, including police officers, whom Dorner allegedly threatened to attack, according to authorities.

Records state that the manifesto was discovered by authorities last Wednesday, three days after the slaying of an Irvine couple: Monica Quan, a Cal State Fullerton assistant basketball coach, and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, a USC public safety officer.

WHO THEY WERE: Dorner's alleged victims

Quan was the daughter of a retired LAPD captain whom Dorner allegedly blamed in part for his firing from the force in 2009.


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--Joseph Serna, Andrew Blankstein, Kate Mather, Richard Winton and Robert Lopez