LOS ANGELES – An ex-Navy reservist who was fired from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2008 went on a murderous rampage aimed at police officers and their families, killing at least three people – including a 14-year veteran of the Riverside Police Department – and setting off a huge manhunt across Southern California on Thursday.
Police were on high alert in a dragnet that appeared to stun even a part of the country familiar with dramatic police hunts. Teams of police officers were dispatched overnight to guard uniformed officers and their families, tactical officers set up lines of defense outside the fortress that is the Los Angeles Police Department, and motorcycle officers were ordered to retreat to the safety of patrol cars.
In Torrance, two women delivering newspapers were shot and wounded by police officers who mistook the pickup they were driving for the one identified as belonging to the gunman. About 12 hours later in San Diego, squads of police cars, in a blaze of red lights and screeching tires, converged on a motel where the suspect was mistakenly thought to be hiding.
The suspect was identified as Christopher Jordan Dorner, 33, who worked for the police department from 2004 to 2008. Mr. Dorner had posted a rambling and threatening note on his Facebook page saying he was suffering from severe depression and pledging to kill police officers to avenge his dismissal for filing a false police report accusing a colleague of police abuse. Mr. Dorner said he had struggled to clear his name in court before resorting to violence.
Mr. Dorner laid out his threats in a 6,000 word manifesto posted on Facebook which was bristling with anger and explicit threats, naming two dozen police officers he intended to kill and laying out grievances against a police department that he said remained riddled with racism and corruption, a reference to a chapter of the department's history that, in the view of many people, was long ago swept aside.
The authorities responded by assigning special security details to protect the people named in the manifesto, and asked the news media not to publish their names.
"I have exhausted all available means at obtaining my name back," he wrote. "I have attempted all legal court efforts within appeals at the Superior Courts and California Appellate courts. This is my last resort. The LAPD has suppressed the truth and it has now lead to deadly consequences."
"I will bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform whether on or off duty," he wrote.
The police said that Mr. Dorner was traveling with multiple weapons, including an assault weapon. On his Facebook page, Mr. Dorner posted a certificate from the Department of the Navy attesting that he had completed a course of training to become an antiterrorism officer at the Center for Security Forces.
"Dorner is considered to be armed and extremely dangerous," said Chief Charlie Beck of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Electronic signs on the freeways urged drivers to look out for the suspect's vehicle, a late-model dark gray Nissan pickup truck, but not to try to approach the vehicle themselves.
"He knows what he's doing; we trained him," Chief Beck said. "He was also a member of the armed forces. It is extremely worrisome and scary, especially to the police officers involved."
In his Facebook manifesto, Mr. Dorner bragged about his abilities. "Hopefully you analyst have done your homework," he wrote. "You are aware that I have always been the top shot, highest score, an expert in rifle qualification in every unit I have been on.
The rampage began with a double homicide in Orange County on Sunday, in which two people were found dead in their car. One of the victims, Monica Quan, 28, an assistant woman's basketball coach at California State University at Fullerton, was the daughter of a former Los Angeles police captain Mr. Dorner had named in his manifesto.
The police believe that then, very early Thursday morning, Mr. Dorner shot and wounded one of the police officers guarding one of his intended victims. And later Thursday morning, the police said, Mr. Dorner ambushed two police officers waiting at a traffic light in Riverside, killing one and severely wounding the other.
"The Riverside officers were cowardly ambushed," Chief Beck said. "They had no opportunity to fight back, no pre-warning."
In the midst of the chaos, the two newspaper delivery women were shot by the police in what Chief Beck described as a case of mistaken identity after officers thought they had spotted Mr. Dorner's car in Torrance. They opened fire; one passenger in the vehicle suffered a minor gunshot wound and the second is in stable condition in a hospital with two wounds.
"Tragically, we believe this was a case of mistaken identity," Chief Beck said.
The authorities were concerned that the gunman would expand his choice of targets.
"If you read his manifesto, L.A.P.D. is a very specific target but all law enforcement is targeted," Chief Beck said. "This is a vendetta against all Southern California law enforcement, and it should be seen as such."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.