BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. (AP) — Police spent all night searching the snowy mountains of Southern California but were unable to find the former Los Angeles police officer accused of carrying out a killing spree because he felt he was unfairly fired from his job.
Authorities planned a midmorning Friday news conference about 80 miles east of LA at Big Bear Lake, where Christopher Dorner’s torched pickup was found Thursday. The area was under a winter storm warning, with snow falling and temperatures well below freezing.
Local ski areas were open, but Bear Valley schoolchildren had the day off because of the manhunt.
About 150 miles to the south, up to 16 San Diego County sheriff’s deputies spent the night surrounding and searching a rural home after a hoaxer reported Dorner was there. There were people at home but Dorner wasn’t one of them, said Lt. Jason Rothlein. Investigators have a pretty good idea who made the call and will be seek criminal charges, he said.
Though the focus is on the resort area, the search for Dorner, 33, stretches across California, Nevada, Arizona and northern Mexico. LAPD officers are especially on edge because Dorner, who was fired from the force in 2008 after three years on the job, promised in rambling writings to bring “warfare” to police and their families.
“We don’t know what he’s going to do,” said Cindy Bachman, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, one of many law enforcement agencies whose primary purpose has become finding Dorner. “We know what he’s capable of doing. And we need to find him.”
Tracks that surrounded the truck and hours of door-to-door searching around Bear Mountain Ski Resort turned up nothing, and authorities conceded that the whereabouts of Dorner, also a former Naval reservist and onetime college running back, remained a mystery.
“He could be anywhere at this point,” said San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon, who had 125 deputies and police officers and two helicopters searching the community of Big Bear Lake, where light snow fell early Friday morning.
The saga began Sunday night, when Monica Quan, the daughter of a former Los Angeles police captain, and fiance Keith Lawrence were found shot in their car at a parking structure at their condominium in Irvine. Quan was an assistant women’s basketball coach at Cal State Fullerton.
The following morning in National City, near San Diego, some of Dorner’s belongings, including police equipment and paperwork with names related to the LAPD, were found in a trash bin.
The LAPD was notified of the find, and two days later informed Irvine police of an angry manifesto written by a former officer and posted on Facebook. Among those named as targets was Quan’s father, Randal Quan, the former LAPD captain who became an attorney who represented Dorner in his unsuccessful attempts to keep the police job he lost in 2008 for making false statements.
“Bing bing bing, the dots were connecting,” Irvine police Lt. Julia Engen said. “These names are somehow associated to Mr. Quan, who just lost his daughter the prior day. The dots connected. OK, now we’ve got a name of somebody to look at. That’s when the discovery was connected.”
On Wednesday night, Irvine and Los Angeles police announced they were searching for Dorner, declaring him armed and “extremely dangerous.” Hours later, they learned they were all too correct.
Two LAPD officers en route to provide security to one of Dorner’s possible targets were flagged down by a resident who reported seeing the suspect early Thursday at a gas station in Corona. The officers then followed a pickup truck until it stopped. The driver, believed to be Dorner, got out and fired a rifle, police said. A bullet grazed an officer’s head.
Later, two officers on routine patrol in neighboring Riverside were ambushed at a stoplight by a motorist who drove up next to them and opened fire with a rifle. One died and the other was seriously wounded but was expected to survive, said Riverside police Chief Sergio Diaz.