LOS ANGELES – A fired police officer who threatened to bring “warfare” to the Los Angeles Police Department went on a shooting rampage that left a policeman and two others dead and set off an extraordinary manhunt Thursday that put Southern California on edge, led hair-trigger officers to mistakenly shoot at innocent citizens and forced police to guard their own.
The search for Christopher Dorner had two states and Mexico on alert before shifting later in the day to the snowy mountains around Big Bear Lake, about 80 miles east of Los Angeles, where police found his burned-out pickup and tracks leading away from the vehicle.
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said 125 officers were going door-to-door and attempting to track the suspect, and a SWAT team was providing added security to those in the community. Schools were put on lockdown while investigators examined the vehicle and spread out across the area.
“He could be anywhere at this point, and that’s why we’re searching door to door,” McMahon said. A snowstorm was expected in the region with temperatures dipping into the teens overnight.
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Throughout the day, thousands of heavily armed officers patrolled highways throughout Southern California, while some stood guard outside the homes of people police say Dorner vowed to attack in a rant — police referred to it as “his manifesto” — posted on his Facebook page. Electronic billboards, which usually alert motorists about the commute, urged them to call 911 if they saw him.
“I will bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare” to Los Angeles Police Department officers, on or off duty, said the manifesto. It also asserted: “Unfortunately, I will not be alive to see my name cleared. That’s what this is about, my name. A man is nothing without his name.”
Dorner, 33, had several weapons, including an assault rifle, said police Chief Charlie Beck, who urged him to surrender at a news conference held amid heightened security in an underground room at police headquarters.
“Of course he knows what he’s doing; we trained him. He was also a member of the armed forces,” he said. “It is extremely worrisome and scary.”
The nearly 10,000-member LAPD sent officers to protect more than 40 potential targets, including police officers and their families. The department also pulled officers from motorcycle duty, fearing they would make for easy targets.
In Torrance early Thursday, officers guarding one location mistakenly opened fire on a truck, believing it matched the description of Dorner’s 2005 Nissan Titan. Two occupants, both women, were wounded. A short time later, Torrance police were involved in a second shooting involving a different truck they also mistook for Dorner’s. Nobody was hurt.
The search for Dorner, who was fired from the LAPD in 2008 for making false statements, began after he was linked to a weekend killing in which one of the victims was the daughter of a former police captain who had represented him during his disciplinary hearing. Thursday was the anniversary of his first day on the job at the department eight years ago.
Monica Quan and her fiancé, Keith Lawrence, were found shot in their car at a parking structure at their condominium on Sunday in Irvine. Quan, 28, was an assistant women’s basketball coach at Cal State Fullerton. Lawrence, 27, was a public-safety officer at the University of Southern California.
Police said Dorner implicated himself in the couple’s killings in the Facebook manifesto. They believe he was the one who wrote it because there were details in it only he would know.
Dorner was with the LAPD from 2005 until 2008.
According to documents from a court of appeals hearing, Dorner was fired from the LAPD after he made a complaint against his field-training officer, Sgt. Teresa Evans. Dorner said that in the course of an arrest, Evans kicked suspect Christopher Gettler, a schizophrenic with severe dementia.
Quan’s father, a former LAPD captain who became a lawyer in retirement, represented Dorner in front of the Board of Rights, a tribunal that ruled against Dorner, police said. Randal Quan retired in 2002 and later served as chief of police at Cal Poly Pomona before he started practicing law.
Dorner had served in the Naval Reserves, earning a rifle-marksman ribbon and pistol-expert medal. He was assigned to a naval undersea-warfare unit and various aviation-training units, according to military records, and took a leave from the LAPD and deployed to Bahrain in 2006 and 2007.
“I will utilize every bit of small-arms training, demolition, ordinance and survival training I’ve been given,” the manifesto read. “You have misjudged a sleeping giant.”
Earlier Thursday, two LAPD officers were flagged downat a gas station in Corona by someone who reporting seeing the suspect. The officers followed a pickup until it stopped. The driver, believed to be Dorner, got out and fired a rifle, police said. A bullet grazed an officer’s head. Later, two officers on patrol in neighboring Riverside were ambushed at a stoplight by a motorist who opened fire with a rifle. One died and the other was seriously wounded but was expected to survive, Riverside police Chief Sergio Diaz said.
In San Diego, where police say Dorner tied up a man and tried to steal his boat Wednesday night, Naval Base Point Loma was locked down Thursday.
Navy Cmdr. Brad Fagan said Dorner was honorably discharged and his last day in the Navy was last Friday. Nevada authorities also joined the search, because Dorner owns a house nine miles from the Las Vegas Strip, according to authorities and property records.