Manhunt: Officers ended standoff because of threat, sources say
Officers decided to end the standoff at the cabin where Christopher Jordan Dorner was believed to be holed up because they considered him a severe and immediate threat to officers and the public, law enforcement authorities said Tuesday night.
In typical barricade situations with armed suspects, commanders at the scene try to calibrate their response between negotiating a peaceful resolution over an extended period and taking quick action.
But given that Dorner, 33, had allegedly killed three people, including a Riverside police officer, and then mortally wounded a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy in a fierce gun battle with law enforcement Tuesday afternoon outside the cabin, authorities felt they had to move.
"We had to end this quickly," a law enforcement source told The Times.
As authorities moved into the cabin late Tuesday afternoon, they heard a single gunshot.
According to a law enforcement source, police had broken windows, fired tear gas into the cabin, and urged Dorner, over a loud speaker, to surrender. When they got no response, officers deployed a vehicle to rip down the walls of the cabin "one by one, like peeling an onion," a law enforcement official said.
By the time officers got to the last wall, authorities heard a single gunshot, the source said. Then flames began to spread through the structure, and gunshots, probably set off by the fire, were heard.
A tall plume of smoke rose as flames consumed the wood-paneled cabin. Hundreds of law enforcement personnel had swooped down on the site near Big Bear after the gun battles between Dorner and officers broke out in the snow-covered mountains, where the fugitive eluded a massive manhunt since his truck was found burning in the area late last week.
Law enforcement personnel in military-style gear and armed with high-powered weapons took up positions in the heavily forested area as the tense standoff progressed.
One San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy died of his wounds after he and another deputy were wounded in an exchange of gunfire outside the cabin in which hundreds of rounds were fired, sources told The Times. One of the wounded deputies was airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he died.
The afternoon gun battle was part of a quickly changing situation that began after Dorner allegedly broke into a home, tied up a couple and held them hostage. He then stole a silver pickup, sources said.
Dorner was allegedly spotted by a state Fish and Wildlife officer in the pickup, sources said. A vehicle-to-vehicle shootout followed. The officer's vehicle was peppered with multiple rounds, according to authorities.
Dorner then crashed his vehicle and took refuge in a nearby cabin, sources said. One deputy was hit as Dorner allegedly fired out of the cabin and a second deputy was injured when a man believed to be Dorner exited the back of the cabin, deployed a smoke bomb and opened fire again in an apparent attempt to flee. Dorner was driven back inside the cabin, the sources said.
During the unprecedented manhunt, officers had crisscrossed California for days pursuing more than 1,000 tips that poured in about Dorner's possible whereabouts -- including efforts in Tijuana, San Diego County and Big Bear -- and serving warrants at homes in Las Vegas and the Point Loma area of San Diego.
Statewide alerts were issued in California and Nevada, and border authorities were alerted. The Transportation Security Administration also had issued an alert urging pilots and other aircraft operators to keep an eye out for Dorner.
The search turned to Big Bear last week after Dorner's burning truck was found on a forest road.
At the search's height, more than 200 officers scoured the mountain area, conducting cabin-by-cabin checks. It was scaled back Sunday; about 30 officers were out in the field Tuesday, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said.
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, Dorner allegedly threatened to attack, according to authorities.
Records state that the manifesto was discovered by authorities Feb. 6, 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.
Quan was the daughter of a retired LAPD captain Dorner allegedly blamed in part for his firing from the force in 2009.
-- Robert J. Lopez, Joel Rubin, Andrew Blankstein and Kate Mather
Photo: A San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputy walks along Club View Drive in Big Bear on Tuesday where Christopher Jordan Dorner was allegedly hiding. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times