Covering five of the six counties that make up Southern California, fired LAPD officer Chris Dorner has cut a violent path throughout Southern California for most of this week launching the largest law enforcement manhunt I have ever seen. Schools in three different counties are either in lockdown or have been canceled for at least the day and as I drove into work this morning, there was a police car parked along the highway about every mile and a half of my drive. It is both the intensity and the geographic reach of the police search that makes this path of carnage so unique. Unfortunately, the motivation for this unthinkable violence, revenge for being fired from the LAPD for making a false statement, is no more rational that other recent tragic events.
The violence began Sunday night just a few miles from where I am writing this when California State University Fullerton basketball coach Monica Quan and her fiance Keith Lawrence were found shot and killed in an Irvine parking structure by their home. Quan is the daughter of a retired captain with the Los Angeles police, one of several officials from the LAPD named in a long “manifesto” left behind by Dorner, who blamed several officials in the department for the end of his career in law enforcement. The residents of the City of Irvine (with only a handful of murders each decade) and Cal State Fullerton community were shocked by the violence against these two young adults with sparkling futures.
Irvine police named Dorner as a suspect in the murder when they found a rambling multi-page manifesto accusing several members of LAPD of “ending his life,” specifically naming Quan’s father who had been the first Asian Captain in the LAPD, “Your lack of ethics and conspiring to wrong a just individual are over. Suppressing the truth will leave (sic) to deadly consequences for you and your family. There will be an element of surprise where you work, live, eat and sleep,” he wrote. “I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own. I’m terminating yours.” The manhunt for Dorner began following the discovery of this “manifesto.”
Details of Dorner’s activities between the Sunday night Irvine murders and last night are a bit sketchy. Dorner reappeared on the radar screen late last night in San Diego when he attempted to hijack a yacht from an 81-year-old man at gun point. Claiming that he was heading for Mexico, Dorner tied up the boat’s owner and tried to make his getaway by sea. This escape attempt was foiled when Dorner failed to secure one of the tie off ropes which fouled the propeller causing Dorner to leave the boat and flee the scene. Dorner’s wallet and LAPD badge were found at the San Diego Harbor not long after the hijacking attempting though authorities did not piece together for hours that the wallet belonged to a fugitive.
Following the discovery of the manifesto, LAPD provided added security at the homes of several of the officers threatened in the manifesto. This turned out to be a critical precaution as Dorner showed up in Corona at the home of one of his targets just hours after the San Diego incident. Dorner’s truck was identified by the officers on protective duty and they exchanged gunfire with Dorner in what is described by LAPD as “an intense and heated gun battle.” News photo’s of the LAPD cruiser riddled with bullets stood as testimony to the accuracy of that statement.
Police car involved in Corona shooting (Photo Courtesy of AP – Nick Ut)
Now evidently in full paranoid rampage mode, Dorner was driving through Riverside less than an hour later when a Riverside Police Department Cruiser pulled up alongside his truck. Evidently convinced that the officers were in pursuit, Dorner shot them both a close range killing on officer and seriously wounding the other.
In one of the disturbing incidents of the day, officers in Torrance opened fire on a truck matching the description of the the one being driven by Dorner when it approached the house of another officer on Dorner’s manifesto hit list. Tragically the truck was driven by a woman and her friend delivering papers as their pre-dawn job. One woman was shot in the back and another in the hand and both are expected to recover.
Truck shot by LAPD with two innocent women inside (Photo Bob Chamberlain, LA Times)
As I write this post, what is believed to be Dorner’s truck has been found fully engulfed in flames on Big Bear mountain, eerily for me right in the neighborhood of my vacation home. Because of police activity in Big Bear, all schools and facilities in the Bear Valley Unified School District have been placed on lockdown. Assistant Superintendent Walter Con says in an online message that district officials do not believe there is any immediate danger, but the lockdown is being done as a precaution. This followed the closing of schools near the earlier incidents in both Riverside and Corona.
Law enforcement officials said Dorner may be switching license plates to evade police. Because he has training as an LAPD officer and as a reservist for the U.S. Navy, the manhunt has posed additional risks for authorities as well. As a precaution, officials from the Los Angeles and Irvine police said, they were making changes to their usual deployment for officer safety.
Dorner began working for the LAPD in 2005. Three years later, the department recommended he be sent to a Board of Rights hearing, and if found guilty, be relieved of duty, according to a complaint dated Jan. 24, 2008. The complaint involved a 2007 incident were Dorner and his partner responded to a report of a man disturbing the peace at the Via Cabrillo Marina in San Pedro. Dorner and his partner requested backup as they used force to arrest the suspect. Two weeks later, Dorner told department officials that he failed to report that his partner kicked the arrested man in the upper body and face while Dorner tried to place him in handcuffs. Dorner’s partner denied kicking anyone, and three independent witnesses supported her statement.
In the manifesto that Dorner posted online, he described himself as a whistleblower, but the report questioned Dorner’s claim. “The delay in reporting the alleged misconduct coupled with the witness’ statements, irreparably destroy Dorner’s credibility, and bring into question his suitability for continued employment as a police officer,” the report read.The report also stated Dorner was struggling to reintegrate into the department after returning from a year of military service. “Whether that in some way created the motivation for him to make this complaint is not known, however it does not rationalize it,” the report stated.
Law enforcement agencies across Southern California were put on high alert after the Thursday morning shootings, and electronic freeway signs were lighted with descriptions of Dorner’s gray or blue Nissan Titan. Los Angeles and Irvine police have their emergency operations centers active Thursday, and were working to coordinate information in their search for Dorner, said Lt. Julia Engen of the Irvine Police Department. Two armed officers stood guard at the door of the Riverside Police Department’s Magnolia substation, with the city, state, and U.S. flags at half mast.