Forensic scientists still investigating charred remains found in Big Bear cabin where the ex-police officer made his last stand
Investigators have reportedly found Christopher Dorner’s wallet beside charred human remains at the forest cabin where he made a last stand, giving California police some peace of mind as they prepared to bury their dead.
Scientists examined the remains on Wednesday to confirm they belonged to the fugitive who waged a bloody vendetta against law enforcement officers and their families.
The Los Angeles police department stood down from high alert and withdrew protection from most, though not all, of the officers believed to have been on Dorner’s hit list. He is believed to have killed four people and wounded three.
“The LAPD has now moved back into a normal state of police operation,” Lt Andy Neiman told a press briefing. About a dozen of the 50 officers deemed in danger remained under protection, he said. “They will remain so until they feel safe. We still have some individuals in this department who remain in great fear. There are families traumatised.”
Dozens of patrol cars from LA, San Diego and other cities lined the route to the Grove community church in Riverside where Michael Crain, a 34-year-old Riverside police force veteran, was due to be buried.
Dorner, 33, allegedly gunned down the father of two last week and wounded two colleagues in a spate of revenge attacks for his sacking from the LAPD in 2008. He also allegedly killed the daughter of a retired police captain and her fiance before vanishing last Thursday.
The San Bernardino sheriff’s department was also making preparations to bury a deputy killed on Tuesday during a siege at the cabin where Dorner was cornered after a dramatic chase and gun battle in the snowy mountain east of LA. Another officer was seriously wounded.
Public sympathy for law enforcers was tinged with unease about elements of a story which unfolded live on TV and transfixed the nation.
Social media buzzed with questions: how did the manhunt miss Dorner for so long when his hideout – an unoccupied vacation cabin – turned out to have been so close to the police command centre? What started the fire which engulfed the second cabin he used for his last stand? Was there a serious effort to take him alive? And would a new inquiry into the circumstances of his sacking conclude that he had a legitimate grievance against the LAPD?
The drama began on Tuesday morning, when two housekeepers entered a vacation cabin beside a golf course and discovered Dorner, a former navy reservist, inside. He tied up the housekeepers and stole a purple Nissan but was intercepted by Fish and Wildlife Department rangers, who gave chase.
Dorner shot and hit their vehicle but caused no injuries. At some point he commandeered another vehicle, allowing its two occupants to step out unharmed and to take their dog.
Dorner briefly shook off his pursuers by overtaking two school buses and leaving the highway, said Patrick Foy, a spokesman with the Fish and Wildlife Department, but other units found him after he again crashed.
He fled on foot to the nearest rental cabin, and was swiftly surrounded by reinforcements from the San Bernardino sheriff’s department.
Hundreds of officers backed by helicopters and military equipment laid siege to Dorner’s cabin, exchanging hundreds of rounds as well as teargas.
By mid-afternoon, flames engulfed the cabin, sending plumes of smoke skyward and illuminating the dusk, and there was no more shooting from inside.
The finale was likely to boost Dorner’s status among a small but vocal online community as a heroic outlaw. Some have cheered Dorner’s killing spree as comeuppance for an allegedly racist and violent police.
LA police chief Charlie Beck called it a bittersweet night. “This could have ended much better; it could have ended worse. I feel for the family of the deputy who lost his life.”
The San Bernardino County sheriff’s department later said analysts would try to identify the remains.
“We have reason to believe that it is him,” said another spokeswoman for the department, Cynthia Bachman, adding that she did not know how the fire started.