Christopher Jordan Dorner was a former LAPD police officer and United States Navy Reserve officer who was charged in connection with a series of shooting attacks on police officers and their families from February 3–12, 2013. The attacks left four people dead, including three police officers, and left three police officers wounded.
Dorner was the subject of one of the largest manhunts in LAPD history, spanning two U.S. states and Mexico. On February 11, 2013 the Riverside District Attorney filed charges against Dorner for the murder of a police officer and the attempted murder of three other officers. The following day, Dorner died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, during a stand-off with police at a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains. Up until the shootings, Dorner was living in La Palma with his mother. Dorner left no children and court records show that his wife filed for divorce in 2007.
Early life and education
Dorner was born in 1979 in New York but grew up in Los Angeles County, California. He attended elementary school at Norwalk Christian School from first to seventh grade. He stated in a published manifesto that he was the only African American student at Norwalk Christian School, where he encountered many racial issues with his peers, and was raised in neighborhoods with scant black populations. He said he was frequently disciplined for being involved with fights with other students in response to the racist name-calling. Dorner attended John F. Kennedy High School in La Palma, and Cypress High School in Cypress, where he graduated in 1997. He graduated from Southern Utah University in 2001 with a major in political science and a minor in psychology. The university confirmed that Dorner had played football for at least two of those years. As a running back in the 1999 season, Dorner played 6 games and rushed for 36 yards in 10 carries.
United States Navy Reserve
Dorner was a former United States Navy Reserve officer who was honorably discharged as a lieutenant. He was commissioned in 2002, commanded a security unit at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, and served with a Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit from June 23, 2004, to February 28, 2006. He was deployed to Bahrain with Coastal Riverine Group Two from November 3, 2006, to April 23, 2007. Dorner was honorably discharged from the Navy Reserve on February 1, 2013.
In 2002, Dorner and a classmate found a bag containing nearly $8,000 that belonged to Enid Korean Church of Grace in Enid, Oklahoma. They turned it in to the police. When asked their motive, Dorner said “it’s an integrity thing.” “The military stresses integrity,” Dorner said. “There was a couple of thousand dollars, and if people are willing to give that to a church, it must be pretty important to them.” Dorner said his mother taught him honesty and integrity.
Los Angeles Police Department
Dorner joined the Los Angeles Police Department in 2005, completing police academy training in 2006.
On July 28, 2007 Dorner and his training officer, fellow police officer Teresa Evans (now a sergeant), went to the DoubleTree Hotel in San Pedro regarding a mentally ill man, Christopher Gettler, who was causing a disturbance.
Two weeks later, Evans gave Dorner a performance review that stated he needed to improve in three areas. The next day Dorner filed a report alleging that Evans had used excessive force in her treatment of Christopher Gettler. Dorner accused Evans of twice kicking Gettler in the face while he was handcuffed and lying on the ground.
An internal review board investigated these claims and listened to the testimony of several witnesses. Christopher Gettler’s father, Richard Gettler, testified that after his son had returned home his face was puffy and his son claimed that he was kicked by a police officer. His father didn’t report this to the police because the injury was minor and his son was unable to explain why he had been kicked. Christopher Gettler claimed that he had been kicked by a female officer who was “almost black” with dark hair (Evans is white with blond hair). He then partially corrected himself, saying she had light hair. He also thought that his injuries had been caused by a club. Gettler’s father said that his son’s mental illness prevented him from being a good witness. Gettler is a schizophrenic with severe dementia.
Dorner was represented by former Los Angeles police captain Randal Quan and maintained that Evans had kicked Christopher Gettler after handcuffing him.
Three witnesses, including two hotel employees and a port police officer, testified that they did not see Evans kick Christopher Gettler. Evans also denied kicking Christopher Gettler. The port police officer recalled telling Dorner to fix his tie, however, a photograph from the scene showed that Dorner was not wearing a tie.
The board’s three members – two LAPD captains and a criminal defense attorney – unanimously ruled against Dorner. They found that his claims lacked credibility and that he was motivated in part by his fear that his training officer would give him a poor evaluation that could end his career. As a result, Dorner’s employment was terminated on September 4, 2008.
In 2010 the case was examined by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe who upheld the LAPD’s decision to fire Dorner.
Judge David P. Yaffe said he was “uncertain whether the training officer kicked the suspect or not” but nevertheless upheld the department’s decision to fire Dorner, according to LA Times. In that case, Dorner could be legally fired for filing a false police report even if the report was true. Dorner appealed his termination by the LAPD Board of Rights by filing a writ of mandamus with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, which upheld the LAPD’s action. He then appealed to the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District, which affirmed the lower court’s ruling on October 3, 2011. Under California law, administrative findings (in this case by the LAPD) are entitled to a presumption of correctness and the petitioner (in this case Dorner) bears the burden of proving that they were incorrect. The appeals court concluded that the LAPD Board of Rights had substantial evidence for its finding that Dorner was not credible in his allegations against Sergeant Evans.
On February 9, 2013, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck ordered a review of the disciplinary case that led to Dorner’s dismissal. Chief Beck said officials would re-examine the allegations by Dorner that his law enforcement career was undone by racist colleagues.
Before embarking on a series of alleged shootings and eluding police, Dorner was purported to have posted a detailed communication on his Facebook page in early February 2013, discussing his history, motivations, and plans. This became known as his “manifesto”. KTLA, a Los Angeles television station, published a redacted version of his manifesto. This redacted version elided the names of all parties mentioned in the other version (including notable media figures), making the document difficult to comprehend. Unredacted versions are viewable as well as an annotated version with acronyms, abbreviations, and terms-of-art.
In the manifesto Dorner cited his termination despite sworn testimony that such excessive force did occur. He noted that no action was taken against Officer Evans, whom Dorner had accused of excessive force and who accused Dorner of misconduct during a patrol. He demanded a public admission by the LAPD that his firing was in retaliation for reporting excessive force.
Killings and criminal charges
On 3 February 2013, Monica Quan, 28, and her fiance Keith Lawrence, 27, were found shot to death in an Irvine parking garage. Monica Quan was the daughter of former LAPD Capt. Randal Quan who had represented Mr. Dorner in the disciplinary case that resulted in Mr. Dorner’s termination from the LAPD in 2009. “In a Facebook post attributed to him, Dorner warned Quan of ‘deadly consequences for you and your family.’ Monica Quan was the assistant woman’s basketball coach at Cal State Fullerton and Lawrence was a campus police officer at USC. The two had met at Concordia University in Irvine, where both played on the school’s basketball teams.”
On February 11, 2013, the Riverside District Attorney filed formal charges against Dorner for the murder of a police officer and the attempted murder of three other officers.
Early on the morning of February 7, Los Angeles police officers fired approximately 100 shots at a blue Toyota pickup truck in which Margie Carranza and her 71-year-old mother, Emma Hernandez, were delivering newspapers. The officers mistook their truck for the gray Nissan Titan Dorner was believed to be driving. Hernandez was hit and Carranza suffered injuries from flying glass. The officers were guarding the home of a high-ranking police official. The city of Los Angeles agreed to a $4.2 million settlement besides the initial $40,000 compensation for their truck. On the same morning, Torrance police opened fire on the truck of a surfer headed for the beach.
During the manhunt, Dorner’s supporters expressed solidarity through social media outlets. Facebook groups were created in Dorner’s honor, and pro-Dorner hashtags such as “#WeStandWithDorner” and “#WeAreChrisDorner” trended on Twitter.
Mountain siege and death
On February 12, 2013, Christopher Dorner tied up a married couple who had discovered him at their residence located in the 1200 block of Club View Drive south of Big Bear Lake, California, which is close to Snow Summit and Bear Mountain Resort. He then left the place in a stolen vehicle. The wife managed to get free and alerted the police at 12:20 PM PST.
At 12:45 PM (PST), wardens from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife identified Dorner traveling down California State Route 38 near the crossroad of Glass Road, which is east of Angelus Oaks. Dorner responded by firing shots at a marked vehicle. A game warden in that vehicle reportedly returned fire. Dorner was cornered by San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department (SBSO) deputies in a rural mountainous area northeast of Angelus Oaks. During this time gunfire was exchanged and two deputies were wounded, one fatally.
A message posted on February 12 to the Twitter account of the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office said:
The sheriff has asked all members of the press to stop tweeting immediately. It is hindering officer safety. #Dorner—
The post was removed within “a few hours.”
At 4:20 PM (PST) the cabin (34°11′12″N 116°54′54″W) at 40612 Seven Oaks Road, Angelus Oaks, where Dorner had taken refuge following a subsequent exchange with officers, was observed to be burning. This caused ammunition stored inside to begin exploding. At the time, the cause of the fire was unknown to the public. Investigative journalist Max Blumenthal stated that audio from the San Bernardino County Channel 7/8 police radio shows that officers deliberately set the cabin on fire as a tactical strategy to kill or smoke out Dorner. According to Blumenthal, Police radio communications recorded before and during the fire included: “We’re gonna go ahead with the plan with the burner,” “The burner’s deployed and we have a fire,” “Burn that fucking house down,” “Fucking burn this motherfucker,” and “Because the fire is contained, I’m gonna let that heat burn through the basement.” After days of denying speculation that the fire was intentionally started by police, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon claimed his officers shot pyrotechnic tear gas into the cabin, which then inadvertently caught on fire. He stated that it was their intention to drive Dorner out, not set the cabin on fire. Abruptly, only days later, news coverage of the story ended without further questioning or probing into how precisely the fire started in the cabin where Dorner was hiding. The questions pertaining to Dorner’s death, and the more important issue as to the circumstances regarding Dorner’s firing and racism within the LAPD still remain.
In the early morning of February 13, the SBSO stated that investigators had located charred human remains in the debris of the burned-out cabin. On February 14, the SBSO announced that the body discovered in the cabin had been positively identified by medical examiners as that of Dorner. The identification was made through dental records during autopsy. San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon says that Dorner died from a single gunshot wound, apparently self-inflicted.
A wallet containing identification cards belonging to Dorner was reported to have been found at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near the US-Mexico border on February 7, 2013. Another wallet containing Dorner’s driver’s license was reported to have been found in the remains of the burnt-out cabin on February 12, 2013.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a $1 million dollar reward for information leading to the capture of Christopher Dorner, and because the terms of the offer were not carefully stipulated, judges had to later decide how the reward would be divided. Ultimately, the reward was divided four ways, with the largest portion going to James and Karen Reynolds, who were tied up by Dorner in their Big Bear cabin before he stole their vehicle.