Los Angeles - Police searched the mountains surrounding a California ski area on Thursday 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.
Authorities were drawn to the Big Bear Mountain area after the discovery of a burned-out pickup truck belonging to the suspect, Christopher Dorner, 33, but he remained at large as darkness fell on Thursday evening.
“We didn't find the suspect. We did find some tracks in the snow but they didn't lead to the suspect,” San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon told a news conference at Big Bear Lake, where schools and a ski resort were closed during the manhunt.
The bloodshed attributed to Dorner began with the weekend slayings of a university safety officer and his fiancée, Monica Quan, 28. She was the daughter of a retired Los Angeles police captain who represented Dorner in disciplinary action that led to his firing in 2008. Quan and her fiance were found dead in Irvine, about 64km south of Los Angeles.
The violence escalated on Thursday with the fatal shooting of a police officer in Riverside and the wounding of two others.
Police learned that Dorner had posted his grievances on Facebook and they have 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,” Beck said.
The search for Dorner, a large man who once played college football, stretched from San Diego - where he 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 160km north-east of Los Angeles, after a truck matching a description of the suspect's getaway vehicle was found burning in the snow. Law enforcement later confirmed it was Dorner's.
“I can't tell you whether he was here or not because we don't know at this point,” McMahon said. “I'm assuming he is here in area.”
The threats in Dorner's multi-page Facebook declaration prompted police to dispatch more than 40 security details to protect those believed to be in danger, authorities said.
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. One officer's head 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 100km east of Los Angeles.
The officer who died was an 11-year Riverside police veteran. His partner was wounded but was expected to fully recover, police said.
Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said he hoped Dorner could be captured without more violence but warned that the suspect 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.
Dorner wrote in the manifesto, which was initially posted on Facebook but later apparently been taken down: “The violence of action will be high. ... I will bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform whether on or off duty.
“The attacks will stop when the department states the truth about my innocence,” read the document, a copy of which was posted on Los Angeles television station KTLA's website.
CNN reported that Dorner had also mailed a DVD and letter to on-air personality Anderson Cooper.
Although the online declaration expressed anger about 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 public attention on Wednesday when he was named as a suspect in the slayings of Quan and her fiancé. Quan's father, retired LAPD Captain Randy Quan, had represented Dorner in hearings that led to his firing for making false statements accusing another officer of using excessive force.
“I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own, I'm terminating yours,” he wrote in a portion of his manifesto addressed to the senior Quan.
The manhunt led to the wounding of two women by police before dawn in the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance, 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. - Reuters