Chris Dorner shootout in Big Bear, California, kills deputy

February 13, 2013 11:00:30 AM PST
Christopher Dorner is believed to have been killed after a firefight with law enforcement in a cabin in Big Bear Lake in California.

PHOTOS: Chris Dorner Manhunt

One sheriff's deputy was killed in the shootout. After an all-day standoff, the weeklong, international manhunt for Christopher Dorner ended overnight in a blazing inferno and a hail of gunfire with local news stations broadcasting the breaking news live. Sources say the man who had hunted police was apparently killed during a tense shootout barricading himself in a cabin and then setting it on fire.

Sources say it all started shortly after noon when a maid called 911 saying she and another worker had been tied up and held hostage by Dorner in a resort cabin, remarkably, just a few yards from where police had been holding press briefings for nearly a week. She told police she'd broken free but that Dorner had stolen a car.

"The vehicle taken was a purple maroon. The suspect took the keys and took off in the vehicle," the police scanner said.

That call sparked a swift and overwhelming response. Roads closed; every car was searched. By 12:45 a.m., a Fish and Game warden spotted the missing car and Dorner and got in a driving shootout with him. Police say Dorner crashed that car, then fled on foot.

"Shut down the freeway. Possibly the subject we've been looking for ," scanner traffic said.

Only to commandeer Rick Heltebrake's pickup truck on a nearby road.

"He pointed his big rifle at me and my truck. I stopped, put my truck in park, put my hands up. 'I don't want to hurt you, just get out and start walking up the road and take your dog with you.' Within about ten seconds or so, I heard a volume of gunfire about 10-20 shots," Heltebrake said.

That gunfire, sources say, was also from the fugitive, this time in a shootout with two approaching sheriff's deputies. Dorner killed one and wounded another before once again fleeing.

Then less than an hour later, residents report the sound of gunfire at a Nearby cabin. As local news choppers hover overhead SWAT teams surrounded Dorner and began firing the melee, broadcast live.

By 2 p.m., smoke was pouring out of the building, then flames. Hours pass before police could finally go in.

"We have reason to believe that it is him," San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cynthia Bachman said.

Dorner, 33, had said in lengthy rant police believe he posted on Facebook that he expected to die in one final, violent confrontation with police, and if it was him in the cabin that's just what happened.

The apparent end came very close to where his trail went cold six days earlier when his burning pickup truck - with guns and camping gear inside - was abandoned on a fire road in the San Bernardino National Forest near the ski resort town of Big Bear Lake.

His footprints led away from the truck and vanished on frozen soil.

With no sign of him and few leads, police offered a $1 million reward to bring him to justice and end a "reign of terror" that had more than 50 families of targeted Los Angeles police officers under round-the-clock protection after he threatened to bring "warfare" to the LAPD, officers and their kin.

Dorner, who allegedly stole the pickup truck he was driving at gunpoint after crashing the first car, rolled down a window and opened fire on the wardens, striking a warden's truck more than a dozen times.

One of the wardens shot at the suspect as he rounded a curve in the road. It's unclear if he hit him, but the stolen pickup careened off the road and crashed in a snow bank. Dorner then ran on foot to the cabin where he barricaded himself and got in a shootout with San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies and other officers who arrived.

A SWAT team surrounded the cabin and used an armored vehicle to break out the cabin windows, said a law enforcement official who requested anonymity because the investigation was ongoing. The officers then pumped a gas into the cabin and blasted a message over a loudspeaker: "Surrender or come out."

The armored vehicle then tore down each of the cabin's four walls.

A single shot was heard inside before the cabin was engulfed in flames, the law enforcement official told The Associated Press.

Until Tuesday, authorities weren't sure Dorner was still in Big Bear Lake, where his pickup truck was found within walking distance from the cabin where he hid.

Even door-to-door searches failed to turn up any trace of him in the quiet, bucolic neighborhood where children were playing in the snow Tuesday night.

With many searchers leaving town amid speculation he was long gone, the command center across the street was taken down Monday.

Ron Erickson, whose house is only about quarter mile away, said officers interrogated him to make sure he wasn't being held hostage. Erickson himself had been keeping a nervous watch on his neighborhood, but he never saw the hulking Dorner.

"I looked at all the cabins that backed the national forest and I just didn't think to look at the one across from the command post," he said. "It didn't cross my mind. It just didn't."

Police say Dorner began his run on Feb. 6 after they connected the slayings of a former police captain's daughter and her fiance with his angry manifesto.

Dorner blamed LAPD Capt. Randal Quan for providing poor representation before the police disciplinary board that fired him for filing a false report.

Dorner, who is black, claimed in his online rant that he was the subject of racism by the department and was targeted for doing the right thing.

Chief Charlie Beck, who initially dismissed Dorner's allegations, said he would reopen the investigation into his firing - not to appease the ex-officer, but to restore confidence in the black community, which had a long fractured relationship with police that has improved in recent years.

Dorner vowed to get even with those who had wronged him as part of his plan to reclaim his good name.

"You're going to see what a whistleblower can do when you take everything from him especially his NAME!!!" the rant said. "You have awoken a sleeping giant."

Within hours of being named as a suspect in the killings, the 6-foot, 270-pounder described as armed and "extremely dangerous," tried unsuccessfully to steal a boat in San Diego to flee to Mexico. After leaving a trail of evidence, he headed north where he opened fire on two patrol cars in Riverside County, shooting three officers and killing one.

With a description of his car broadcast all over the Southwest and Mexico, he managed to get to the mountains 80 miles east of Los Angeles where his burning truck was found with a broken axle.

Only a short distance from the truck, he spent his final days with a front-row seat to the search mobilized right outside.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.