(LOS ANGELES) — Investigators have not been able to enter the still smoldering remains of the California mountain cabin where they believe fugitive ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner barricaded himself Tuesday, but they believe he was still there as the structure burned to the ground, police said Tuesday night.
Cindy Bachman, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, which is the lead agency in the action, said the cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear was still too hot and dangerous for investigators to enter.
She said, however, that a suspect they believe is Dorner entered the cabin and did not come out as it burned to the ground.
“We believe that he was still inside the cabin [as it burned down], yes,” Bachman said.
Bachman spoke shortly after the Los Angeles Police Department denied reports that a body was removed from the cabin, contradicting what law enforcement sources told ABC News and other news organizations.
Police around the cabin said they saw Dorner enter, but never leave the building as it was consumed by flames, creating a billowing column of black smoke seen for miles. The smoke was first seen coming from the cabin shortly before 4:30 p.m. PT.
Dorner, a former Navy marksman who is wanted for allegedly murdering a police officer and suspected in the deaths of two other people earlier this month, had reportedly engaged in a gunfight Tuesday with two San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies who had pursued him.
The two were airlifted to a nearby hospital, where one died, police said.
Dozens of local, state and federal authorities were at the scene in the San Bernardino Mountains. Dorner had sworn to kill police and their family members in his so-called “manifesto” discovered online last week.
The search for Dorner, one of the largest manhunts in recent memory, culminated in a call to police Tuesday afternoon that a suspect resembling Dorner had broken into a nearby home, taken hostages and stolen a car.
Police said the former cop, who was believed to be heavily armed and extremely dangerous, allegedly took two women hostage before stealing a car just after noon local time Tuesday, police said.
The two hostages, who were tied up by Dorner but later escaped, were evaluated by paramedics and were determined to be uninjured.
Officials say Dorner crashed the stolen vehicle and fled on foot to the cabin where he barricaded himself and exchanged fire with deputies from the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office and state Fish and Game officers.
Police sealed all roads going into the area and imposed a no-fly zone above the cabin, nestled in a wooded area that has received several inches of snow in recent days.
Four Big Bear area schools were briefly placed on lockdown.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department stopped all traffic leaving the area and thoroughly searched vehicles, as SWAT team and tactical units could be seen driving toward the cabin, their sirens blaring.
If Dorner is still on the run, he faces capital murder charges that involve the killing of Riverside police officer Michael Crain, who was gunned down in an ambush last Thursday. The charges do not involve the slayings of Monica Quan and her fiance, who were found shot to death Feb. 3. Quan was the daughter of former LAPD Capt. Randal Quan, who was mentioned as a target of Dorner’s fury in his manifesto, which he posted on his Facebook page.
In the 6,000 word screed, Dorner outlined his anger at the Los Angeles Police Department for firing him, and threatened individuals he believed were responsible for ending his career with the police force five years ago. His termination reportedly came after an LAPD investigation determined Dorner made a false report accusing other cops of brutality.
The LAPD had assigned 50 protection details to guard officers and their families who were deemed possible targets while Dorner remained at large.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Sonia Moghe and Wayne Drash, CNN
Jackie Wattles and Amanda Barnett, CNN
Matt McFarland, CNN
Mike Price, EastIdahoNews.com