Tip on ex-cop sends police to shopping centre
Police have evacuated a Los Angeles home improvement store after a caller said they had seen someone resembling a fugitive ex-police officer suspected of three killings.
Los Angeles police spokesman Gus Villanueva says the caller reported a sighting of 33-year-old Christopher Dorner on Sunday (Monday, NZT). Police were sent to the Northridge area but Villanueva couldn't say whether the tip has turned out to be legitimate.
News helicopters showed police helping customers and employees leave a Lowe's Home Improvement store. A command post has been established nearby.
The search since Thursday evening (Friday, NZT) had focused on mountains 80 miles east of Los Angeles where Dorner's burned truck was found. But authorities have found no recent signs of Dorner.
LA officials announced a $1 million reward earlier Sunday for information leading to Dorner's arrest.
Earlier, police had blocked off a street and stood guard in front of a home in a typically quiet Southern California suburb, protecting a man they believe was a target of the fugitive.
Police are working to protect dozens of families considered targets based on Christopher Dorner's Facebook rant against those he held responsible for ending his career with the Los Angeles Police Department five years ago.
Dorner, 33, is suspected of killing three people, including one police officer.
"We will not tolerate this reign of terror," said LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
After days without resolution, Dorner's fugitive status caused concern among some and downright fear among others in the upscale community that the FBI consistently ranks among the safest cities in the US.
"If he did come around this corner, what could happen? We're in the crossfire, with the cops right there," said Irvine resident Joe Palacio, who lives down the street from a home surrounded by authorities protecting a police captain mentioned in Dorner's posting.
The neighborhood has been flooded with authorities since Wednesday (Thursday, NZT). Residents have seen police helicopters circle and cruisers stake out schools. Some have responded by keeping their children home. Others no longer walk their dogs at night.
Dorner's background added to the anxiety. The former LAPD officer also served in the Navy, earning a rifle marksman ribbon and a pistol expert medal. He was assigned to a naval undersea warfare unit and various aviation training units, according to military records. In his online manifesto, Dorner vowed to use "every bit of small arms training, demolition, ordnance and survival training I've been given" to bring "warfare" to the LAPD and its families.
As tense Irvine residents went on with their lives, police looked into a taunting phone call to the father of the woman they believe Dorner killed last week.
Two law enforcement officers who requested anonymity because of the ongoing investigation told The Associated Press they are trying to determine whether Dorner made the call telling retired police Capt Randal Quan that he should have done a better job protecting his daughter.
The bodies of Monica Quan and her fiance were found shot dead last Sunday in Irvine, marking the start of the high-profile case.
Things escalated early Thursday morning, when police say Dorner got into a shootout with police in Corona, grazing an LAPD officer's head with a bullet before escaping. Authorities believe he then used a rifle to ambush two Riverside police officers, killing one and seriously wounding the other.
About 65 miles away, the manhunt continued in the San Bernardino mountains near the ski resort town of Big Bear, where authorities found Dorner's burned out pickup truck Thursday. Police have since said they discovered weapons and camping gear inside the vehicle.
The search scaled down as the weekend went on, but a helicopter with heat-seeking technology scanned the area as two-dozen officers went back to some of the 600 cabins they earlier visited door to door.
With little apparent evidence pointing to Dorner's whereabouts, worrisome questions emerged: How long could the intense search be sustained? And, if Dorner counties to evade capture, how do authorities protect dozens of former police colleagues whom he has publicly targeted?
LAPD Cmdr Andrew Smith said the department has deployed 50 protection details to guard officers and their families who are deemed targets in Dorner's manifesto.
"It can't be one guy with a gun in a living room," Smith said, suggesting that more officers would be necessary to keep families safe.
The department, however, is looking for ways to economize if the search for Dorner stretches on, whether it's reducing the numbers of officers assigned to the targets or something else, he said.
There were no plans to reduce protections until Dorner was in custody, said Los Angeles police Sgt. Rudy Lopez.
As long as Dorner's whereabouts are unknown, the police department must provide protection to those named in his rant, said Chuck Drago, a Florida-based police consultant.
If the search drags on, the LAPD will likely find safe houses for the targeted individuals, much as they would for witness protection participants, instead of posting officers outside their homes, he said.
"We realize it costs money and it gets expensive, but this is as clear of a threat as you can get," Drago said. "We know that if he's able to get to these targets then he's probably able to hurt them. The money is always an issue but not when it's somebody's life at stake."
LAPD remains on modified tactical alert, responding only to priority calls and not to those for lesser issues such as public intoxication or business disputes.
Authorities Sunday morning had six cars protecting Capt. Phil Tingirides, who chaired a disciplinary panel that stripped Dorner of his badge. Black and white police cruisers were posted on each end of his street and four more were parked outside his home. At least a half-dozen officers were visibly standing guard.
Meanwhile Palacio, who has to navigate the heavy police presence to get to and from his home, said his family is trying to keep routines normal.
"Life goes on," he said, "and we're doing our thing."
KEY EVENTS IN HUNT FOR EX-LA COP, SUSPECTED KILLER
Key events in the expansive, ongoing manhunt for Christopher Dorner, the fired Los Angeles police officer suspected of killing three people - including a police officer in Southern California - and posting a manifesto on Facebook outlining plans to kill the families of those he says have wronged him, all times local:
- Sunday, February 3: An assistant women's college basketball coach and her fiance are found shot to death in their car in Irvine, Calif. Police learn later the woman was the daughter of a retired Los Angeles police captain who represented Dorner in disciplinary hearings that resulted in his dismissal from the force.
- Monday, February 4: Some of Dorner's belongings, including police equipment, are found in a trash bin in suburban San Diego, linking him to Irvine killings.
- Wednesday, February 6: Police announce finding Dorner's manifesto online.
- 10.30pm, Wednesday, February 6: A man matching Dorner's description makes a failed attempt to steal a boat from a San Diego marina. An 81-year-old man on the vessel is tied up but otherwise unharmed.
- 1.30am, Thursday, February 7: LAPD officers, protecting person named in manifesto, chase a vehicle they believe is Dorner's. One officer is grazed in the forehead by a bullet during a shootout, and the gunman flees.
A short time later, a shooter believed to be Dorner ambushes two Riverside police officers during a routine patrol. One officer is killed, and the other critically injured.
- 2.20am, Thursday, February 7: A shuttle bus driver turns in a wallet with an LAPD badge and a picture ID of Dorner to San Diego police. The wallet was found less than five miles from the boat, near San Diego International Airport.
- 5am, Thursday, February 7: LAPD officers guarding a manifesto target in the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance open fire on a truck they mistakenly believe to be Dorner's. A mother and daughter delivering the newspaper are injured.
A short time later, Torrance police are involved in a second shooting involving a different truck they also mistake for Dorner's. Nobody is hurt.
- 8.35am, Thursday, February 7: Police find a burned-out pickup truck near the Big Bear ski area in the San Bernardino Mountains. Six hours later, authorities identify it as Dorner's.
- 9.40am, Thursday, February 7: Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego is locked down after a Navy worker reports seeing someone who resembles Dorner. Military officials later said Dorner had indeed checked into a hotel on base earlier in the week - on Tuesday - but had left on Wednesday.
- 4pm, Thursday, February 7: Authorities search a Las Vegas-area home belonging to Dorner and leave with several boxes of items. They say no weapons were found but decline to disclose what was discovered.
- Friday, February 8: Dozens of searchers hunt for Dorner in the freezing, snowy San Bernardino Mountains after losing his footprints near the site where the truck was found. Authorities search Dorner's mother's house in La Palma and collect 10 bags of evidence and also took five electronic items for examination. Police also search a storage locker in Buena Park.
- Saturday, February 9: Helicopters equipped with heat-seeking technology resume search for Dorner in the mountains near Big Bear. Authorities reveal that weapons and camping gear were found in Dorner's burned truck.
- Sunday, February 10: Authorities announce $1 million (NZ$1.2m) reward for information leading to Dorner's arrest.