San Bernardino Mountain residents, some vacationers endure manhunt
Residents in the San Bernardino Mountains have survived earthquakes and forest fires. They have endured bark beetle infestations and, now, a massive manhunt for fugitive ex-police Officer Christopher Jordan Dorner.
Dorner, a former Los Angeles Police Department officer suspected of three deaths, has so far eluded authorities. And the cold weather and snowfall hampered some of the search efforts Friday.
His torched pickup was discovered Thursday on a forest road between Bear Mountain and Snow Summit ski resorts. Authorities discovered a set of fresh tracks leading away from the vehicle, but that trail has run cold.
By dusk Friday, law enforcement agencies began scaling back their search of rugged slopes and back country cabins, done via snowmobiles, Snowcats and helicopters. And cash registers were ringing up purchases made by weekend skiers and tourists who came to enjoy the first blizzard of the season.
With 9 inches of snow piling up downtown, it was an ideal February evening in the resort town nestled in a long valley 6,800 feet above sea level.
A procession of cars and buses crept up the mountain. Fleets of snowplows took to the streets. Emergency response crews in four-wheel-drive vehicles were dispatched to rescue stranded motorists. Restaurants and watering holes bustled. Utility crews and meter readers tended to leaking pipes.
Vacationers Toby Vana, 39, and his wife, Leonada, 35, of Mililani, Hawaii, echoed the sentiments of many new arrivals Friday night as they admired the glistening snow through a restaurant window at the Northwoods Resort hotel in Big Bear Village.
“I wasn’t so concerned about personal safety, given that the suspect has a specific target and is on the run,” Toby Vana said. “I was more concerned about roadblocks creating bottlenecks and delays.”
“We came to ski,” his wife added. “And we can’t wait.”
Meanwhile, it was quiet in the Best Western Big Bear lobby Friday night. Stephanie Castillo manned the front desk alone, with not much to do.
"We emptied out because of this," she said, referring to the manhunt. "But we refilled with media and police."
Castillo said she has cancelled 10 reservations from tourists since news broke that Dorner might be in the area. But over the last two days, a steady stream of reporters and police with rifles slung over their shoulders have booked rooms instead.
-- Louis Sahagun and Joseph Serna in Big BearPhoto: A snowboarder walks through a parking lot Friday at Bear Mountain ski resort as law enforcement continues to look for suspect Christopher Dorner. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times