Ex-cop who allegedly ambushed officers called 'depraved,' 'cowardly'
The fired LAPD officer suspected of terrorizing Southern California in a bloody rampage opened fire on two Riverside police officers with a rifle in a "cowardly ambush" early Thursday morning, Riverside police Chief Sergio Diaz told reporters at a morning news conference.
A 34-year-old officer who was an 11-year veteran of the department was killed in the attack. He was training a 27-year-old officer, who was shot in the upper body but survived, Diaz said. Their names were not released.
Diaz, a former Los Angeles Police Department deputy chief, said he believed the attack was random, coming less than 20 minutes after the suspect -- identified as Christopher Jordan Dorner -- had opened fire on two LAPD officers in Corona near the Magnolia Street exit ramp on Interstate 15.
Those officers were among 41 special details dispatched to protect LAPD officers whom Dorner, in what authorities say is an online manifesto, allegedly threatened to hunt down in revenge for being dismissed from the force.
"My opinion of the suspect is unprintable,'' Diaz said. "The manifesto I think speaks for itself as evidence enough of a depraved and abandoned mind and heart.''
The suspect allegedly opened fire as the Riverside officers were stopped at a red light at the intersection of Magnolia Avenue and Arlington Boulevard about 1:35 a.m. Bullets pierced the patrol car's windshield, hitting both officers in the chest, Diaz said.
Officers from law enforcement agencies around the Inland Empire descended on Riverside to assist with the manhunt. Officers toting rifles and shotguns stood vigil outside the Riverside police station, which has been placed on "high alert.''
Diaz described the situation as surreal.
"We're hoping to wake up and find this is a bad dream,'' he said
Corona police Chief Michael Abel said the suspect opened fire on two LAPD officers after they were flagged down by a resident who recognized Dorner's Nissan Titan pickup truck. After a short pursuit, Dorner shot at the officers with a rifle, grazing one on the head. The LAPD officers returned fire but their patrol car was disabled and they could not continue the pursuit.
The LAPD officer who was shot was hospitalized and a full recovery is expected, said LAPD Dep. Chief Jose Perez. He was not identified.
Diaz said the department decided to delay releasing the names of the slain and wounded officers because of fears that Dorner, in his quest to hunt down police officers and their relatives, may target their families.
With the city on edge, Diaz urged parents to continue sending their children to school -- which he said was the safest place for them -- and for local businesses to stay open. There's no evidence that Dorner remained in Riverside, or that that he was targeting anyone in the city, Diaz said.
Diaz said he did not know the suspect while he was with the LAPD, and did not have any role in the grievance proceeding that led to Dorner's dismissal in 2009.
"We're going to find him. You can't have this many people looking for you and not be found,'' Diaz said.
Some schools in the area were closed.
A note posted on the Notre Dame Catholic High School website said the school was closed because of the shooting. The school is not far from the scene of the attack.Meanwhile, a spokeswoman with the Riverside Unified School District said officials were trying to reassure parents that the district's campuses were safe and that they were working closely with authorities.
"Of course, we are being vigilant, even more extra than we normally do," said district spokeswoman Jacquie Paul.
Despite the outreach some parents have chosen to keep their children at home, she said.
The district oversees about 42,000 students from kindergarten through high school. She said students would be excused if their parents decided to keep them home.Assistant Supt. David Hansen of the Corona Norco Unified School District said some parents in his district had also kept their children home.
Hansen said all schools were operating normally. He said a automatic phone message was sent to parents telling them that officials were aware of the shootings, and to ensure them they were working closely with police.
"There's anxiety all around because this has been on the news," Hansen said.
-- Phil Willon and Ruben Vives