By Amanda Holpuch, The Guardian
February manhunt in California led to $1.2m reward offered by LA authorities – and several people are vying for the cash
It was the biggest US manhunt in living memory, which ended with the fugitive taking his own life as his mountain cabin redoubt burned around him. But the case of Christopher Dorner, who killed four people during his rampage in southern California last month, is not over yet. Now comes the tussle for the reward money.
A park ranger who was carjacked by Dorner has filed a claim for the entire $1.2m reward offered by the Los Angeles authorities for information leading to his arrest and capture.
Rich Heltebrake said Dorner, dressed in military-camouflage gear, walked up to his truck, pointed a rifle at him and said: “I don’t want to hurt you, just take your dog and start walking.” Heltebrake called authorities after the incident and police surrounded the cabin where Dorner was hiding, and would soon die, shortly after.
LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a collection of other groups offered the million dollar award for information leading to Dorner’s capture and arrest.
“Mr Villiagrosa made a promise of that much money for the capture and conviction of Mr. Dorner and I believe that my phone call directly led to the end of the biggest manhunt in southern California history,” Heltebrake told KTLA-5 news in LA.
In the claim filed on 19 February, Heltebrake’s attorney wrote: “Mr Heltebrake’s telephone call to Deputy Franklin notified law enforcement of Mr Dorner’s location, provided a description of the vehicle he was fleeing in and was the substantial factor in the capture of Mr Dorner at the cabin location.
“Consequently, Mr. Heltebrake accepts the mayor’s offer of the entire reward of $1.2m.”
Dorner died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in the cabin, which was burned to the ground after police used an incendiary tear gas in an attempt to drive him out.
“The case is closed,” Heltebrake said. “They aren’t looking for anybody else.”
Heltebrake said he didn’t think anyone expected Dorner to be captured and convicted. “But, you know, in all intents and purposes, that’s what happened. When you’re captured you’re not free to leave,” he said. “Well he was in the cabin and he wasn’t free to leave.”
But he is unlikely to be the sole claimant for the cash, as police received dozens of tips in the course of the manhunt that crossed 20 jurisdictions. A couple who had been tied up by Dorner after they found him in their rental cabin in the Big Bear area called 911 after managing to free themselves. The carjacking of Heltebrake came after that.
Dorner had also been spotted by state fish and wildlife officers who gave chase as he fled the couple’s cabin.
Heltebrake was ambiguous about whether he would split the reward. “It comes down to whether people qualify, and they had to make the claim first, that’s the process, we’ll see how that all goes,” Heltebrake said.
Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck said that in keeping with all cases involving a reward, authorities would decide how to disseminate the award after the completion of the investigation.
Dorner, 33, believed he had been wrongly fired from the LAPD. In a manifesto posted on Facebook, he said he would use “unconventional and asymmetrical warfare” to target police officers and their families. Authorities dispatched approximately 50 protective details to officers and families threatened in the manifesto.
His killing spree began February 3 when he shot college basketball coach Monica Quan and her fiance, a university police officer. Quan’s father is a retired LAPD captain who sat on Dorner’s board of rights hearing when he was facing dismissal.