Ex-LA cop hostage story renews manhunt questions
BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. (AP) — Karen and Jim Reynolds say they came face to face with fugitive Christopher Dorner, not on a snow-covered mountain trail, but inside their cabin-style condo.
During a 15-minute ordeal just a stone’s throw from a command post authorities had set up in the massive manhunt for the ex-Los Angeles police officer, the couple said Dorner bound them and put pillowcases on their heads. At one point, he explained that he had been there for days.
‘‘He said, ‘I don’t have a problem with you, so I'm not going to hurt you,'’’ Jim Reynolds said. ‘‘I didn’t believe him; I thought he was going to kill us.’’
Police have not commented on the Reynoldses’ account, but it renews questions about the thoroughness of a search for a man who authorities declared was armed and extremely dangerous as they hunted him across the Southwest and Mexico.
Remains found in the burned cabin where Dorner made his last stand Tuesday were positively identified Thursday through dental examination, said Jodi Miller, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County sheriff-coroner.
The department did not immediately disclose the cause of death, and officials said the autopsy report was still being completed. Toxicology tests could take weeks.
Meanwhile, court documents show Dorner gathered information on a women’s basketball coach and her fiance before he apparently killed them earlier this month.
The Orange County Register reported that Irvine police believe Dorner researched Monica Quan, 28, and her 27-year-old boyfriend, Keith Lawrence. The records also say Dorner may have had documents containing information about Quan and her family.
Police tied Dorner to the slayings after reading a manifesto he wrote in which he sought revenge against those he believed ended his law enforcement career. Quan’s father represented Dorner during a disciplinary hearing.
The search for Dorner began last week after authorities said he had launched a deadly revenge campaign against the Los Angeles Police Department for his firing, warning in the manifesto that he would bring ‘‘warfare’’ to LAPD officers and their families.
The LAPD had said protection details for about 50 officers and their families would be maintained until the remains in the cabin were positively identified. The details had already been reduced, and the last of them were called off Thursday morning, police spokeswoman Officer Rosario Herrera said.
The manhunt for Dorner brought police to Big Bear Lake, 80 miles east of Los Angeles, after his burned-out pickup truck was found abandoned last week. His footprints disappeared on frozen soil and hundreds of officers who searched the area and checked out each building failed to find him.
‘‘They said they went door-to-door but then he’s right there under their noses. Makes you wonder if the police even knew what they were doing,’’ resident Shannon Schroepfer said. ‘‘He was probably sitting there laughing at them the whole time.’’
The notion of him holed up just across the street from the command post was shocking to many, but not totally surprising to some experts familiar with the complications of such a manhunt.
‘‘Chilling. That’s the only word I could use for that,’’ said Ed Tatosian, a retired SWAT commander for the Sacramento Police Department. ‘‘It’s not an unfathomable oversight. We’re human. It happens. It’s chilling (that) it does happen.’’
Law enforcement officers, who had gathered outside daily for briefings, were stunned by the revelation. One official later looking on Google Earth exclaimed that he'd parked right across the street from the Reynoldses’ cabin each day.
The Reynoldses said Dorner was upstairs in the rental unit Tuesday when they arrived to ready it for vacationers. Dorner, who at the time was being sought for three killings, confronted the couple with a drawn gun, ‘‘jumped out and hollered ‘stay calm,'’’ Jim Reynolds said in a news conference Wednesday night.
His wife screamed and ran downstairs, but Dorner caught her, Reynolds said. The couple said they were taken to a bedroom where Dorner ordered them to lie on a bed and then on the floor. Dorner bound their arms and legs with plastic ties, gagged them with towels and covered their heads with pillowcases.
‘‘I really thought it could be the end,’’ Karen Reynolds said.
The couple believed Dorner had been staying in the cabin at least since Feb. 8, the day after his burned truck was found nearby. Dorner told them he had been watching them by day from inside the cabin as they did work outside. The couple, who live nearby, only entered the unit Tuesday.Continued...