Christopher Dorner manhunt: Slain deputy ID'd
Updated: February 13, 2013 - 09:22 pm
BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. (AP) - A sheriff says his deputies did not intentionally burn down a California mountain cabin where fugitive ex-police officer Christopher Dorner is believed to have died.
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said Wednesday that his deputies shot pyrotechnic tear gas into the cabin and it erupted in flames.
He says the tactic was intended to drive Dorner out, but it was not their intention to set the cabin on fire.
McMahon did not say directly that the tear gas started the blaze and the cause of the fire remained unclear.
A body believed to be Dorner was discovered in the ashes of the cabin, but McMahon said authorities have not positively identified the remains.
As teams of officers who had sought the fugitive ex-Los Angeles police officer since last week were closing in, Dorner pointed the gun at Rick Heltebrake and ordered him to get out of his truck.
"I don't want to hurt you. Start walking and take your dog," Heltebrake recalled Dorner saying during the carjacking Tuesday.
The man, who wasn't lugging any gear, got into the truck and drove away. Heltebrake, with his 3-year-old Dalmatian Suni in tow, called police when he heard a volley of gunfire erupt soon after, and then hid behind a tree.
A short time later, police caught up with the man they believe was Dorner, surrounding a cabin in which he had taken refuge after crashing Heltebrake's truck 80 miles east of Los Angeles. A gunfight ensued in which one sheriff's deputy was killed and another wounded.
McMahon identified the slain deputy Wednesday as 35-year-old Jeremiah MacKay, a man who grew up in the area and followed his father into public service.
MacKay was a detective who had been with the department for 15 years.
He leaves behind a wife, a 7-year-old daughter and a 4-month-old son.
As the gunfire ended, the cabin erupted in flames.
A charred body was found in the basement, along with a wallet and personal items, including a California driver's license with the name Christopher Dorner, an official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing probe.
The coroner's office is studying the remains to positively determine the identity. It was not clear how the cabin caught fire.
Recalling his encounter, Heltebrake said Wednesday that he wasn't panicked in his meeting with Dorner because he didn't feel the fugitive wanted to hurt him. "He wasn't wild-eyed, just almost professional," he said. "He was on a mission."
"It was clear I wasn't part of his agenda and there were other people down the road that were part of his agenda," he said.
Dorner, 33, had said in a rant that authorities believe he posted on Facebook last week that he expected to die, with the police chasing him, as he embarked on a campaign of revenge against the Los Angeles Police Department for firing him.
The apparent end came in the same mountain range where Dorner's trail went cold six days earlier, after his pickup truck - with guns and camping gear inside - was found abandoned and on fire near the ski resort town of Big Bear Lake.
His footprints led away from the truck and vanished on frozen soil.
Deputies searched door-to-door in the city of Big Bear Lake and then, in a blinding snowstorm, SWAT teams with bloodhounds and high-tech equipment in tow focused on scouring hundreds of vacant cabins in the forest outside of town.
Authorities for the most part looked at cabins boarded up for the winter, said Dan Sforza, assistant chief of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and often didn't enter occupied homes where nothing appeared amiss.
That could have been how Dorner went overlooked in a cabin just across the street from a police command post set up to capture him. It wasn't immediately known how he got into the cabin or how long he'd been there.
He as there Tuesday, however, when two women arrived to clean it, said Lt. Patrick Foy of the state fish and wildlife department.
With three killings behind him and law enforcement still on the hunt, Dorner didn't shoot them. Instead, he tied up the women and took their purple Nissan as he fled. Sparing the housekeepers ultimately would start the chain of events that would lead to his undoing.
One of the women broke free and called 911, Foy said, and the chase was on.
Two game wardens quickly spotted the car on a meandering road along a scenic lake, and deputies planned to throw down spike strips to puncture the vehicle's tires, authorities said.
The driver of the vehicle seems to anticipate the move, pulling close behind the school buses to give officers no space to drop the strips, Foy said. Dorner had warned - even boasted - in the rant that he knew their tactics and techniques as well as the officers pursuing him.
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