SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner killed himself as the cabin he was barricaded inside caught fire following a shootout with officers, police revealed today while also confirming he spent most of his time on the run in a condominium just steps away from the command center set up to find him.
"The information that we have right now seems to indicate that the wound that took Christopher Dorner's life was self-inflicted," sheriff's Capt. Kevin Lacy told reporters at a news conference.
Authorities initially were unsure whether Dorner killed himself, had been struck by a deputy's bullet or had died in a fire that engulfed the cabin during the shootout.
The search for Dorner began last week after authorities said he had launched a deadly revenge campaign against the Los Angeles Police Department for his firing, warning in a manifesto posted on Facebook that he would bring "warfare" to LAPD officers and their families.
Within days he had killed four people, including two police officers.
He killed the daughter of a former LAPD captain and her fiance Feb. 3 and later a Riverside police officer he ambushed at a traffic light before disappearing into the San Bernardino National Forest near Big Bear Lake where his burned-out truck was found last week.
From there he eluded a huge manhunt for several days until Karen and Jim Reynolds found him inside their cabin-style condo within 100 yards of a command post for the manhunt when they arrived Tuesday to ready it for vacationers.
Dorner, who at the time was being sought for three killings, confronted the couple with a drawn gun, "jumped out and hollered 'stay calm,'" Jim Reynolds said at a news conference.
His wife screamed and ran, but Dorner caught her, Reynolds said. The couple said they were taken to a bedroom where Dorner ordered them to lie on a bed and then on the floor. Dorner bound their arms and legs with plastic ties, gagged them with towels and covered their heads with pillowcases.
"I really thought it could be the end," Karen Reynolds said.
The couple believed Dorner had been staying in the cabin at least since Feb. 8, the day after his burned truck was found nearby. Dorner told them he had been watching them by day from inside the cabin as they did work outside. The couple, who live nearby, only entered the unit Tuesday.
"He said we are very hard workers," Karen Reynolds said.
After Dorner fled in their purple Nissan Rogue, Karen Reynolds managed to call 911 from a cellphone on the coffee table.
Police have not commented on the Reynoldses' account. But the notion of him holed up just across the street from the command post was shocking to many, though not totally surprising to some experts familiar with the complications of such a manhunt.
"Chilling. That's the only word I could use for that," said Ed Tatosian, a retired SWAT commander for the Sacramento Police Department. "It's not an unfathomable oversight. We're human. It happens."
Law enforcement officers, who had gathered outside daily for briefings, were stunned by the revelation. One official later looking on Google Earth exclaimed that he'd parked right across the street from the Reynoldses' cabin each day.
Timothy Clemente, a retired FBI SWAT team leader who was part of the search for Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph, said searchers had to work methodically. When there's a hot pursuit, they can run after a suspect into a building. But in a manhunt, the search has to slow down and police have to have a reason to enter a building.
"You can't just kick in every door," he said.