Later that morning, authorities found a burned-out pickup truck near the Bear Mountain ski area in the San Bernardino Mountains. The truck, which had a broken axle, was loaded with weapons and camping gear.
Police later confirmed it was the black Nissan Titan Dorner had so religiously buffed and polished.
Tips poured in, topping 1,000 after a $1 million reward was posted on Feb. 9. The Mexican navy went on alert following a report that Dorner had attempted to steal a yacht in San Diego.
Other suspected sightings of Dorner over the week led to authorities mistakenly firing on two newspaper carriers, shutting down a Navy base in San Diego, evacuating a Los Angeles area home improvement store, and raiding at a low-budget motel across the border in Tijuana, Mexico. But the manhunt was centered on the mountains. That was Jeremiah MacKay’s territory.
MacKay’s father, Alan, is something of a legend in these hills.
A former captain with the San Bernardino County Fire Department, the elder MacKay had played a key role during the 2003 ‘‘Old Fire,’’ which burned more than 91,000 acres, killed five people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes. The Redlands resident put in 15-hour days, fighting the fire and acting as a department spokesman when needed.
Loftis says the son had initially planned to follow in the father’s footsteps. But a few ride-alongs with deputies patrolling the waters of Lake Arrowhead convinced him to go for another type of badge.
The younger MacKay had been putting in 12-hour days searching for Dorner. On Feb. 9, an Associated Press reporter ran across him during a patrol around the lake.
Despite having been on duty since 5 a.m., MacKay and his partner were in good spirits. Standing by the car door in full tactical gear, MacKay tucked the stock of his Mini-14 rifle against his shoulder and practiced sighting down the barrel, aiming playfully at a snowdrift.
‘‘This one, you just never know if the guy’s going to pop out or where he’s going to pop out,’’ he told a reporter, crinkling his brow and shaking his head. ‘‘We’re hoping this comes to a close without any more casualties. The best thing would be for him to give up.’’
The next day, MacKay was excited to see his photo on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. But he chided himself, cousin Kelly Mitchell says, for having what he considered ‘‘a smug look’’ on his face.
Jeremiah and Lynette MacKay married in late 2011. Lynette had a 7-year-old daughter from a previous relationship; about four months ago, she gave birth to a son.
As a bagpiper for the Inland Empire Emerald Society, MacKay had played at many memorials and funerals for fallen officers. He knew this hunt was perilous, but he knew just as well that Dorner had to be stopped.
And he was determined to be the one who did it.
Jim and Karen Reynolds were in the process of refurbishing their condo near Big Bear, working on it off and on through the winter season. They had last been there on Feb. 6 and weren’t planning to come back until Valentine’s Day, but decided to check in early after learning that Dorner’s truck had been abandoned nearby.
When they walked into the upstairs living room Tuesday morning, Dorner was waiting for them with his gun drawn. He had been there at least five days — within shouting distance of a command post set up by the people hunting him.
‘‘Stay calm,’’ he shouted. When Karen Reynolds turned to run out, he grabbed her from behind.
Karen Reynolds said Dorner was calm and ‘‘very methodical’’ as he instructed them to sit, then tied their hands and legs.
‘‘I don’t have a problem with you,’’ he told the couple. ‘‘I just want to clear my name.’’
Dorner moved the couple to a bedroom and shut the door.
When they felt he had gone, Karen Reynolds managed to get to her feet and, with her hands still tied behind her back, open the door. To her amazement, Dorner had left her cell phone on the living room table.
She picked it up and dialed 911. It was 12:22 p.m. Tuesday.
Dorner had taken off in the couple’s purple Nissan SUV. It wasn’t long before officers, now alerted, spotted the fugitive.
Dorner managed to evade a group of wardens from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and some sheriff’s deputies. But he later crashed the Nissan and struck out on foot.
Rick Heltebrake was driving the perimeter of a Boy Scout camp he watches over when Dorner — his bulletproof vest bristling with rifle magazines — emerged from the tree line.
‘‘I don’t want to hurt you,’’ Dorner said in a calm, businesslike voice as he pointed his rifle at the 51-year-old Heltebrake. ‘‘Start walking and take your dog.’’Continued...