Trail Grows Cold in Hunt for Ex-Officer Wanted in 3 Killings

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Correction Appended

BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. -- With the search for a former Los Angeles police officer wanted in three killings yielding no sign of him Friday morning in a snowy valley high in the San Bernardino Mountains, the authorities were wondering whether he had somehow managed to slip the dragnet.

The police had tried to bottle up the suspect in the resort area around Big Bear Lake, which has only a handful of access roads, and they were confident that they had him trapped. But Thursday pushed into Friday, with no trace of the former officer, Christopher J. Dorner, Mr. Dorner, 33, a former Navy reservist, who has been the target of a huge manhunt since Thursday morning, sought in connection with the shooting deaths of three people and the attempted shootings of several other police officials. A steady snowfall in the region, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, was slowing the search Friday morning, with more in the forecast.

Sheriff John McMahon of San Bernardino County said the police had spent the night scouring the area around Mr. Dorner's burned-out car, which had been discovered Thursday morning, and trying to follow a set of tracks in the snow that the authorities believe were made by the suspect. Officers went door to door overnight, taking special care to investigate remote cabins and other vacation homes whose owners were away, but they found nothing in any of them.

"We searched all night; we did not discover any additional evidence," Sheriff McMahon said at a news briefing on Friday morning. "We will continue searching until either we discover that he left the mountain, or we find him."

"We don't have any evidence to suggest that he is or is not here," he added.

For the second day in a row, local schoolchildren were getting a day off school, keeping them and their yellow buses off the mountain roads in the midst of the search.

As the search continued without finding any new evidence, and the ski resort reopened, local residents and visitors alike expressed growing skepticism that Mr. Dorner was in town, if he had ever been here in the first place. Instead, many thought the pickup truck was a diversion.

Cindy Johnston, who lives in San Dimas, was in the Big Bear Lake area for the weekend to ski with her family.

"We're being a little bit more careful, but that's about it," Ms. Johnston said. We're keeping the kids closer together and not going out so much at night. I think he'd be stupid if he was here, and he doesn't seem stupid. There are too many people looking for him. I think the car was a diversion."

Mr. Dorner, who had been fired by the Los Angeles Police Department in 2008, had posted a rambling, 6,000-word manifesto on his Facebook page in which he threatened to kill several police officials in retaliation for his dismissal. In it, he complained of severe depression and pledged to kill officers to avenge his dismissal for filing a false report accusing a colleague of abuse.

In the note, Mr. Dorner said he had struggled to clear his name in court before resorting to violence.

Tensions were so high that on Thursday in Torrance, two women delivering newspapers were shot and wounded by police officers who mistook the pickup they were driving for the gray Nissan 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 after his wallet was found on a sidewalk.

But then, as night was falling Thursday, the gray Nissan was found, destroyed by flames, at the side of a dirt road in a snowy, wooded area near Big Bear.

The manifesto was bristling with anger and explicit threats, naming two dozen police officers he intended to kill. Mr. Dorner laid 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 swept aside long ago.

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 L.A.P.D. has suppressed the truth and it has now lead to deadly consequences."

"I will bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in L.A.P.D. uniform whether on or off duty," he wrote.

The police said that Mr. Dorner was traveling with multiple weapons, including an assault weapon. They had not indicated by Friday morning whether any of the weapons had been recovered from the burned vehicle. 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. "He knows what he's doing; we trained him. He was also a member of the armed forces. It is extremely worrisome and scary, especially to the police officers involved."

Mr. Dorner bragged about his lethal skills. "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," he wrote.

The rampage began with a double homicide in Orange County on Sunday. One of the victims, Monica Quan, 28, was the daughter of a former Los Angeles police captain who had defended Mr. Dorner in his disciplinary proceedings.

On Wednesday, Chief Beck said, Mr. Dorner tried to hijack a boat in San Diego. Early Thursday morning, police officers assigned to protect an officer named by Mr. Dorner were alerted by a civilian who spotted a man resembling the suspect. As they followed him, Mr. Dorner opened fire as they approached him -- grazing one in the head -- before he fled, Chief Beck said.

Less than an hour later, the suspect approached two Riverside police officers parked at a traffic light in a patrol car and opened fire, killing one and seriously wounding the second.

"The Riverside officers were cowardly ambushed," Chief Beck said. "They had no opportunity to fight back, no pre-warning."

The authorities were concerned that the gunman would expand his choice of targets. "This is a vendetta against all Southern California law enforcement, and it should be seen as such," Chief Beck said

More than a dozen law enforcement agencies across Southern California -- from Riverside, east of Los Angeles, down to San Diego -- were engaged in the search. Police vehicles crowded the freeways, where electronic signs urged drivers to look out for the suspect's vehicle.

F.B.I. agents staked out a home in Orange County where neighbors said Mr. Dorner's mother lived. Neighbors said that they had seen Mr. Dorner on and off after he returned from a two-year deployment in the Middle East in 2006. They all said he was a cordial and approachable neighbor.

"I don't expect to see him anymore, because I know that this is a hot area for him," said Ike Gonzalez, who has lived there since 1973.

Mr. Dorner was dismissed after being charged with making false statements about his training officer, who he alleged had kicked a suspect. A review board ultimately found Mr. Dorner guilty. Mr. Dorner sued the department, but both the trial court and an appellate court upheld his termination.

In his online manifesto, Mr. Dorner railed against the officers involved in his hearing. "You destroyed my life and name because of your actions," he wrote. "Time is up."

"I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own, I'm terminating yours," he wrote. "Look your wives/husbands and surviving children directly in the face and tell them the truth as to why your children are dead."

Correction: February 8, 2013, Friday

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled, in some instances, the surname of the former police officer who the authorities say has killed at least three people as part of a rampage aimed at police officers and their families. It is Christopher J. Dorner, not Dornan.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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