(BIG BEAR, Calif.) — Though they have not yet identified burned remains found at the scene of Tuesday’s fiery, armed standoff, San Bernardino, Calif., officials consider the manhunt over for Christopher Dorner, the fugitive ex-cop accused of going on a killing spree.
“The events that occurred yesterday in the Big Bear area brought to close an extensive manhunt,” San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon told reporters Wednesday evening.
“I cannot absolutely, positively confirm it was him,” he added.
However, McMahon noted the physical description of the suspect authorities pursued to a cabin at the standoff scene, as well as the suspect’s behavior during the chase and standoff, matched those of the fugitive.
The charred remains of the body believed to be that of Dorner were removed from the cabin high in the San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear, Calif., the apparent site of the 33-year-old’s last stand. Cornered inside the mountain cabin Tuesday, the suspect shot at cops, fatally wounding one deputy and injuring another before the building was consumed by flames.
“We did not intentionally burn down that cabin to get Mr. Dorner out,” McMahon said Wednesday night, though he noted pyrotechnic canisters known as “burners” were fired into the cabin during a tear gas assault in an effort to flush out Dorner. The canisters generate high temperatures, he added.
The deputies wounded in the firefight were airlifted to a nearby hospital, where one died, police said.
The deceased deputy was identified Wednesday night as Det. Jeremiah MacKay, 35, a 15-year veteran and the father of two children — a daughter, 7, and son, 4 months old.
“Our department is grieving from this event,” McMahon said. “It is a terrible deal for all of us.”
The wounded deputy, identified as Alex Collins, was undergoing multiple surgeries for his wounds at a hospital, McMahon said, but was expected to make a full recovery.
Before the final standoff, Dorner was apparently holed up in a snow-covered cabin in the California mountains just steps from where police had set up a command post and held press conferences during a five-day manhunt.
Since last Thursday, hundreds of cops scoured the mountains near Big Bear, a resort area in Southern California, using bloodhounds and thermal-imaging technology mounted to helicopters in the search for Dorner.
The former police officer and Navy marksman was being hunted as the suspect who allegedly killed a Monica Quan and her fiance, who were found shot to death Feb. 3. Last Thursday, he allegedly gunned down Riverside, California Michael Crain, who was laid to rest Wednesday. Crain’s shooting and the discovery of an online “manifesto” pledging to kill dozens of cops, launched the dragnet.
Quan was the daughter of former LAPD Capt. Randal Quan, who was mentioned as a target of Dorner’s fury in Dorner’s screed declaring he was bent on revenge and pledged to kill dozens of LAPD cops and their family members.
The manhunt for Dorner, one of the biggest in recent memory, led police to follow clues across the West and into Mexico, but it ended just miles from where Dorner’s trail went cold last week.
But it now appears that Dorner never left the area.
“There were rounds being fired,” McMahon told reporters Wednesday evening about the last stand. “It was absolutely incredible. It was like being in a war zone.”
McMahon called the deputies at the scene “heroes” for persisting in the face of fire from the cabin, noting, “The rounds kept coming but the deputies did not give up.”
Some local television stations broadcast police scanner recordings of the firefight, the chatter punctuated by the sound of automatic gunfire.
“It was horrifying to listen to that firefight and to hear those words,” said LAPD spokesman Lt. Andrew Neiman. “‘Officer down’ is the most gut-wrenching experience that you can have as a police officer.”
Over the course of the next five hours, heavily armed SWAT teams with tank-like vehicles surrounded the cabin, even firing tear gas inside, but never entered the building.
Cops said they heard a single gunshot go off from inside the cabin just as they began to see smoke and fire. Later they heard the sound of more gunshots, the sound of ammunition being ignited by the heat of the blaze, law enforcement officials said.
In the 6,000-word “manifesto,” Dorner outlined his anger at the Los Angeles Police Department for firing him, and made threats against individuals he believed were responsible for ending his career with the police force five years ago. Dorner’s grievance with police goes back five years, when he was fired for filing what the LAPD determined to be a false report accusing other cops of brutality.
The LAPD assigned 50 protection details to guard officers and their families who were deemed possible targets. The LAPD said Wednesday it would maintain the details until Dorner’s body was positively identified.
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