LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Police swarmed a California ski area on Thursday in their search for a fired Los Angeles policeman accused of killing three people and declaring an all-out war on law enforcement officers and their families in a rambling Internet manifesto.
Police were drawn to the area after the discovery of a burned-out pickup truck belonging to the suspect Christopher Dorner, 33.
The violence attributed to Dorner began with the weekend slayings of a campus safety officer and his fiancée. The woman was the daughter of a retired Los Angeles police captain who had represented Dorner in disciplinary action that led to his 2008 dismissal and was apparently singled out by the former cop for blame.
It continued early Thursday, resulting in the fatal shooting of a police officer in Riverside and the woundings of two others.
The manhunt widened in scope and urgency earlier this week when police learned that Dorner had posted his grievances and threats online in writings they interpreted as a potential hit list.
“This is a vendetta against all of Southern California law enforcement and it should be seen as such,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told reporters.
“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.”
The search for the suspect stretched from San Diego, where Dorner was believed to have tried to steal a boat on Wednesday night, to the San Bernardino mountains northeast of Los Angeles.
Police descended on a ski area around the resort community of Big Bear Lake, about 100 miles (160 km) northeast of Los Angeles, after a truck matching a description of the suspect’s getaway vehicle was found burning in the snow. Law enforcement confirmed the truck was Dorner‘s.
Authorities found fresh tracks in the snow believed to be Dorner‘s, a Big Bear Lake fire official told the Los Angeles Times. Nearby schools and other facilities were placed on a security lockdown as a precaution.
Police had closed in on Dorner earlier on Thursday when two Los Angeles police officers assigned to a search detail traded fire with him in the city of Corona. The head of one officer was grazed by a bullet, police said.
Two other officers were ambushed - one of them killed - about 20 minutes later while sitting in their patrol car at a traffic light in the adjacent town of Riverside, about 60 miles (100 km) east of Los Angeles.
The officer who died was an 11-year Riverside police veteran. His partner was severely wounded but was expected to recover, police said.
‘HUNTING’ FOR POLICE OFFICERS
The threats in Dorner’s rambling, multi-page Facebook declaration had prompted police to dispatch more than 40 security details to protect people thought to be in danger of attack, Beck said.
At a separate news conference, Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said he hoped Dorner could be captured without more bloodshed, but warned that he was mobile and extremely dangerous.
“This is a somewhat unprecedented, or at least rare occurrence - a trained, heavily armed person who is hunting for police officers,” he said.
Dorner was presumed to be armed with multiple weapons, including an assault rifle, Beck said, although his manifesto suggested he may be more heavily armed.
“Do not deploy airships or gunships. SA-7 Manpads will be waiting,” Dorner wrote, in a reference to a Russian-made shoulder-launched missile system. His claim could not be independently verified.
The manifesto, quoted by various news media on Thursday, appeared to have been removed from the social network site, but Los Angeles television station KTLA posted a full copy of the document on its website.
“The violence of action will be high. ... I will bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform whether on or off duty,” Dorner wrote. “The attacks will stop when the department states the truth about my innocence.”
Although the online declaration expressed anger over his dismissal from the police force, there was no immediate explanation for the time lag between his 2008 termination and this week’s events.
Dorner first came to the public’s attention on Wednesday when he was named as a suspect in the weekend slayings of Monica Quan, an assistant basketball coach at California State University Fullerton, and her fiancé, Keith Lawrence, a University of Southern California public safety officer.
Quan’s father, retired LAPD Captain Randy Quan, had represented Dorner in disciplinary hearings that led to his termination from the department for making false statements accusing another officer of using excessive force, police said.
“I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own so, I‘m terminating yours,” he wrote in a portion of his manifesto addressed to the senior Quan.
The California Highway Patrol issued an alert on Dorner to law enforcement throughout the state after the Riverside shootings, which followed an aborted attempt on Wednesday night to steal a boat in San Diego.
The manhunt also led to the wounding of two female bystanders by police before dawn in Torrance, just south of Los Angeles, where officers on a security detail opened fire on a pickup truck resembling one Dorner was thought to be driving.
One victim suffered a minor gunshot wound and the second was listed in stable condition with two gunshot wounds.
“Tragically, we believe this was a case of mistaken identity by the Los Angeles police officers,” Beck said.
Additional reporting by Dana Feldman, Brandon Lowrey and Nichola Groom in Los Angeles, Marty Graham in San Diego and Daniel Trotta in New York; Writing by Steve Gorman; editing by Alden Bentley, Dan Grebler, Steve Orlofsky, Leslie Gevirtz, Cynthia Johnston, Philip Barbara, G Crosse and Bill Trott