Fugitive believed killed in California

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BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. -- The extraordinary manhunt for the former Los Angeles police officer suspected of three killings converged Tuesday on a mountain cabin where authorities believe he barricaded himself inside, engaged in a shootout that killed a deputy and then never emerged as the home went up in flames.

A single gunshot was heard from within. A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that a chared body was found inside, but other authorities said no body had been found.

If it proves that Christopher Dorner died in the fire, the search for the most wanted man in America over the last week would have ended the way he had expected -- death, with the police pursuing him.

Thousands of officers had been hunting for the 33-year-old former Navy reservist since police said he launched a campaign to exact revenge against the Los Angeles Police Department for his 2008 firing. They say he threatened to bring "warfare" to officers and their families, spreading fear and setting off a search for him across the Southwest and Mexico.

"Enough is enough. It's time for you to turn yourself in. It's time to stop the bloodshed," LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said at a news conference held outside police headquarters in Los Angeles, a starkly different atmosphere than last week when officials briefed the news media under tight security with Mr. Dorner on the loose.

A short time after Cmdr. Smith spoke Tuesday, smoke began to rise from the cabin in the snow-covered woods near Big Bear Lake, a resort town about 80 miles east of Los Angeles. Flames then engulfed the building -- images that were broadcast on live television around the world as TV helicopters showed the fire burning freely with no apparent effort to extinguish it.

"We have reason to believe that it is him," said San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cynthia Bachman, adding that she didn't know how the fire started. She noted there was gunfire between the person in the cabin and officers around it before the blaze began.

Until Tuesday, authorities didn't know whether Mr. Dorner was still near Big Bear Lake, where they found his burned-out pickup last week.

Days ago, Mr. Dorner apparently broke into a couple's home on a street nestled in a community called Moonridge, beside a golf course near Big Bear Lake, off California Route 18, authorities said. He reportedly tied up the couple as his hostages and stayed out of sight until Tuesday afternoon.

Around 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, deputies got a report of a stolen pickup, authorities said. The location was across the street from where law enforcement set up their command post on Thursday and not far from where Mr. Dorner's pickup was abandoned. The owner of the vehicle taken Tuesday described the suspect as looking similar to the fugitive.

A warden for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife driving down Highway 38 recognized a man who fit Mr. Dorner's description traveling in the opposite direction. The officer pursued the vehicle and there was a shooting at 12:42 p.m. in which the wildlife vehicle was hit numerous times and the suspect escaped on foot after crashing the truck.

After holing up in the cabin, there was a second gunbattle with San Bernardino County deputies, two of whom were shot. One died and the other was expected to live after surgery.

The man believed to be Mr. Dorner never came out of the cabin, and a single shot was heard inside before the cabin was engulfed in flames, a law enforcement official who requested anonymity told The Associated Press. That same official later said a charred body was found in the burned cabin.

Officials were waiting for the fire to burn out before approaching the ruins to search for a body.

A SWAT team earlier had surrounded the cabin and using an armored vehicle, broke out the cabin windows, the official said. The officers then pumped gas into the cabin and blasted a message over a loudspeaker: "Surrender or come out."

The armored vehicle then tore down each of the cabin's four walls, like peeling back the layers of an onion, the official said.

Police say Mr. Dorner, a self-proclamed survivalist, began his run on Feb. 6 after they connected the slayings of a former police captain's daughter and her fiance with an angry Facebook rant they said he posted. Threats against the LAPD led officials to assign officers to protect officers and their families.

Within hours of the release of photos of the 6-foot, 270-pounder described as armed and "extremely dangerous," police say, he unsuccessfully tried to steal a boat in San Diego to flee to Mexico and opened fire on two patrol cars in Riverside County, shooting three officers and killing one.

Mr. Dorner's anger with the LAPD dated back at least five years, when he was fired for filing a false report accusing his training officer of kicking a mentally ill suspect. Mr. Dorner claimed in the rant that he was the subject of racism by the department and fired for doing the right thing.

He said he would get even with those who wronged him to reclaim his good name.

One of the targets listed in the manifesto was former LAPD Capt. Randal Quan, who represented Mr. Dorner before the disciplinary board. Mr. Dorner claimed he put the interests of the department above his. The first victims were Capt. Quan's daughter, Monica Quan, 28, a college basketball coach, and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, 27.


Associated Press contributed.


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