Police following hundreds of tips say accused murderer may have had help in evading dragnet around Big Bear ski resort
Police in California are chasing more than 1,000 tips and reported sightings of Christopher Dorner, the fugitive former police officer who has eluded a massive manhunt and is eligible for the death penalty if caught.
Detectives on Tuesday were examining video footage of a man resembling Dorner buying scuba diving equipment at a store in Torrance days before he allegedly killed three people in a vendetta against the Los Angeles police department.
Authorities also investigated the possibility an associate identified only as JY helped the rogue former officer evade a dragnet in Big Bear, a ski resort where Dorner’s pick-up truck was found burning and abandoned last Thursday.
Paul Zellerbach, the county district attorney of Riverside, where Dorner, 33, allegedly killed one officer and wounded two others, cited special circumstances in murder charges which made the fugitive eligible for execution and rapid extradition should he be caught outside the state.
“I want to cover all my bases. I want to make sure when he is located and arrested, he can be extradited back to California as soon as possible,” Zellerbach told reporters. He predicted Dorner, a former navy reservist and trained marksman, would try to strike again. “I don’t think he’s done.”
Police continued searching cabins in Big Bear on Tuesday. A property there owned by a relative of JY, the associate, was put under surveillance, according to federal court documents viewed by the LA Times.
Police pursued multiple leads elsewhere, many generated by a $1m reward for information leading to Dorner’s capture, thought to be the biggest bounty in Los Angeles history. “Some are credible, and all of them will be looked at,” said Lt. Andy Neiman, an LAPD spokesman.
About 50 LAPD officers and their families remained would remain under 24 hour protection “until the threat no longer exists”, he added.
Before the rampage Dorner posted a lengthy online “manifesto” which explained his grudge against the LAPD, which fired him in 2008, and named dozens of people on a hitlist.
His revenge allegedly began on February 3 by killing Monica Quan, 28, the daughter of a retired police captain, and her fiance Keith Lawrence, 27. They were shot dead in their car.
Four days later Dorner allegedly exchanged shots with a patrol, grazing one officer in the head, and later allegedly ambushed two other officers, killing one, Michael Crain, 34, a veteran, and wounding the other, a trainee. A huge security operation is expected at Crain’s funeral on Wednesday.
In an initially wild police response officers fired dozens of bullets at a pick-up mistaken for Dorner’s which turned out to contain a mother and her adult daughter delivering newspapers. Other officers rammed and fired at another pick-up driven by an airport worker.
All three are expected to recover but the police have been called reckless: the trucks did not match Dorner’s grey Nissan, the occupants were not black or large, and there was a question mark whether any warning was given.
The blunders fuelled online support for the fugitive, including a Dorner for President Facebook page, and revived longstanding accusation that the LAPD is prone to violence and trigger-happiness. “Don’t Shoot, I’m Not Chris Dorner” bumper stickers and t-shirts are on sale.