The Rogue Cop Who Could Get Away
Some fear the search for Christopher Dorner could drag on—and that he may never be found. By Christine Pelisek.
After a weeklong dragnet, $1 million reward, and more than 600 tips, police still have not tracked down the rogue LAPD officer who allegedly killed a young couple in Irvine and a Riverside police officer and then went on the lam.
Where is 33-year-old Christopher Jordan Dorner? Is he dead? Does he have an accomplice? Is he hiding out in Mexico? Or is Dorner, described as "armed and extremely dangerous," about to strike again.
“I don’t think he will stop,” said Dennis Zine, a Los Angeles City Council member and retired Los Angeles Police Department officer. “He has a list of people. I think he is laying low right now…. This isn’t just a guy who wakes up one day and decides to do this. This was something well planned. He is not going to turn himself in. He is either going to go out in a big gun battle or lay low. He has already killed three people at this point; what is his future?”
Others, like Los Angeles private investigator Jan Tucker, suspect Dorner may be getting help.
“I don’t think he is operating alone,” said Tucker, who issued a public call through social media for Dorner to contact him for assistance if he wants to surrender to authorities. “I think he is sending people on a wild goose chase. He has had years to plan this. It sounds like he has planned it out a long time and if he is as smart as I think he is, he has already established safe houses and people who want to cooperate with him. I know people who would do that in a heartbeat. There are all sort of militant anti-cop types. There are plenty people that have heart that haven’t developed brains yet.”
Officially, the LAPD is declining to speculate. “There are many theories and those theories have to be supported by fact,” said Lt. Andy Neiman. “We are going to follow up on every lead. We are trying to get one step ahead of him.”
The manhunt for the former cop, who threatened “unconventional and asymmetrical warfare” on his former colleagues after he was fired, in a 6,000-word manifesto he posted on Facebook last Monday, is now in its seventh day.
There have been several reported sightings of Dorner, from a San Bernardino apartment complex to a Lowe’s home-improvement store in Northridge, Calif., but none of them has panned out. The alleged sighting in Northridge prompted an evacuation of the store. A law enforcement source told the Los Angeles Times that the call most likely was related to a dispute involving a couple, outside the store.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports also are on the lookout for Dorner. So are Mexican authorities. The Transportation Security Administration posted warnings to pilots and airports to be on the watch for the elusive gunman.
Dorner, who is believed to be armed with an assault rifle, has turned the Southland into a veritable war zone. The skies of Los Angeles are alive with the sounds of helicopters buzzing around the city, and the LAPD up until Monday was on tactical alert, which allows supervisors to keep officers after their shifts end.
“This is unusual,” said Neiman. “Earthquakes and fires can generate long-range tactical alerts. The closest thing that compares to this would be the Washington sniper case.”
The investigation, which involves local, state, and federal authorities, has fanned out from Las Vegas and Mexico. There has even been some speculation that law enforcement officials were using drones to track down the Navy veteran—but those reports were knocked down, said Customs and Border Patrol spokesman Ralph DeSio.
“Reports about these unmanned aircraft systems being used are incorrect,” he said. “They are not flying in support of the search.”
Even Charlie Sheen has jumped in. In a video message, the actor thanked Dorner for mentioning him in his manifesto, and asked him to call, although Sheen never offered a phone number. "You mentioned me in your manifesto, so thank you for your kind words," Sheen says. "I am urging you to call me. Let's figure out together how to end this thing."
Dorner is accused of fatally shooting Monica Quan, a California State, Fullerton assistant basketball coach, and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, on Feb. 3. Quan was the daughter of Randy Quan, a retired LAPD captain who represented Dorner at a hearing on his firing and who is one of about 50 people Dorner blamed for his firing in his manifesto.
Dorner also is believed to have killed Riverside Police Officer Michael Crain and severely injuring another officer. Dorner allegedly ambushed the two cops as they were stopped at a traffic light. On Monday, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office filed capital murder charges against Dorner for the killing of Crain as well as three counts of attempted murder for the shooting of Crain's partner and the shooting rampage on two LAPD officers in neighboring Corona. Dorner could face the death penalty on the murder charges.
The search for Dorner initially focused on the snowy mountains of Big Bear, after police discovered his torched Nissan pickup truck, with scorched weapons inside, on Thursday afternoon. That effort was scaled back Monday—after an unprecedented search involving hundreds of officers, including heavily armed SWAT members—when no sign of Dorner was found. San Bernardino Sheriff John McMahon, however, vowed to keep on searching “until he has been apprehended or it has been determined that he is no longer on the mountain.”
The U.S. Marshals Service, meanwhile, was focusing its attention on Mexico. According to a federal arrest warrant affidavit filed last Thursday—the same day the Big Bear search began—investigators suspected Dorner may have made his way into Mexico after his wallet and identification card were found by police in San Diego near the U.S.-Mexican border at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
U.S. Marshals Service Inspector Craig McClusky wrote: “…there is probable cause to believe that Dorner has moved and travelled in interstate and foreign commerce from California to Mexico with the intent to avoid prosecution.”
McClusky wrote that someone claiming to be Dorner called Quan’s father at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, informing him that he ``should have done a better job of protecting his daughter.''
The call, wrote McClusky, was traced to Vancouver, Wash., but the inspector said he didn’t believe Dorner “was in Washington at the time of that call.”
According to the affidavit, federal investigators also were tracking the movements of an associate of Dorner’s, whose relative owned a piece of property in Arrow Bear. During their surveillance, they came across a pickup truck that matched Dorner’s.
McClusky wrote that the person, identified as J.Y. in the federal report, was spotted Thursday afternoon in the Orange County city of Costa Mesa.
More than 40 LAPD officers and their families are under police protection at the moment, but some, like Zine, are wondering how long that can continue—and how much the city can afford.
“How long can we continue the security for these people?” said Zine. “He lays low for a month and comes back. He knows police tactics and he knows you [can’t] run a security detail forever. You can’t keep it up for months and months. We only have so many police officers. The overtime we are spending on this is phenomenal. We don’t have the resources for that. We don’t have the resources to do this forever. ”
Others have been critical of the LAPD’s handling of the case, and are wondering if there’s any truth behind Dorner’s claims, including that he witnessed his training officer kick a mentally ill man, and questioned whether such a police presence is necessary.
“I think there is overreaction now,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. “I think they have to step back. You don’t want to see any more lives lost or collateral damage. You don’t want to see what happened in Torrance the other day. This is a calculating guy. They have to take more informed steps to catch this fellow. You want to minimize the loss of human life. It is a time for a pause. Approach it a little more rationally. Dorner is not going to be walking down Hollywood Boulevard.”
(Two women were mistakenly shot by police when they were delivering newspapers early on Thursday morning. The police thought the car they were driving matched Dorner's. The women survived and the LAPD offered to buy them a new pick-up truck after it was riddled with bullets.)
Some wonder if Dorner will ever be caught, or if he will remain elusive much like D.B. Cooper, the fabled thief who hijacked and threatened to blow up a Boeing 727 flying to Seattle in 1971, then parachuted out of the plane with $200,000, never to be seen again.
“D.B. Cooper got away with it,” said Zine. “Will this guy get away with it?”