TOPICS > Politics

After Dorner Police Standoff, Big Bear Community Feels Bittersweet Relief

February 13, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
The manhunt for ex-LA cop Christopher Dorner has allegedly ended in Big Bear Lake, Calif., where police suspect Dorner was killed in a fire. Jeffrey Brown gets an update from Kate Mather who's been covering the story for the Los Angeles Times.
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JEFFREY BROWN: And joining us now is Kate Mather, who’s been covering this story for The Los Angeles Times.

Kate, first, what’s the latest with a final I.D. of the body?

KATE MATHER, The Los Angeles Times: Right.

That’s something that investigators were beginning to work on today. They said it could be some time before we know for sure if the body found in that cabin is indeed that of Christopher Dorner’s. They have to make the positive identification. And while authorities indicated that they would try to expedite that process, we still have not received official word from authorities today that that was, in fact, Dorner’s body.

JEFFREY BROWN: One of the questions still out there, of course, is what or who started the fire. How much is known?

KATE MATHER: What we do know right now — again, that’s another thing that authorities haven’t said one way or the other.

But we do know that during the middle of this intense gun battle between authorities and the man they believe that was Dorner up at that cabin, sources have described to us — that situation to us as something that was very, very intense. They said that there were hundreds of rounds fired, that there seemed to be no letting up in terms of the gunfire coming from the cabin.

So they began to evaluate their options, and authorities realized they wanted to resolve this situation. Dark was coming. There, again, didn’t seem to be an end from the gunfire. And so one of the decisions they made was to put tear gas in. And one of the things that sources have told my colleagues is that they initially used just a lower-grade tear gas, and when that didn’t work, they used a higher, more potent tear gas that’s commonly referred to as incendiary tear gas.

And that burns hotter than your typical tear gas would. And one of the risks associated with using that type of tear gas is, because it burns hotter, it can spark fires. And so that tear gas was used in clearing the cabin. Again, authorities told my colleagues and I that they believed that that would drive Dorner out.

They said that he was refusing efforts by negotiators, and so that was the move that they made.

JEFFREY BROWN: He ended up in an area close to where he started, and it had been thought that he had left that area. Is there still confusion or many questions about the sequence of events over the last few days?

KATE MATHER: You’re exactly right.

His truck was last found in the area on Thursday, and so that is what drew the search up there. And there were hundreds of officers out there at once point searching cabin to cabin, looking at tracks that led away from the truck. And so — but we didn’t see any new signs of Dorner until Tuesday morning, when these women went up to this condo that they were going to clean and saw a man that they thought he — that was him inside.

So it remains to be seen if he was there from Thursday to Tuesday morning. Residents up there are, of course, speculating one way or the other. Some people said they thought he was long gone. Others said they had a hunch the whole time he was there. We’re hoping authorities clear up that, some more of that for us in the coming days.

JEFFREY BROWN: And I’m wondering. These were such incredibly tense days there, especially in that area. What’s the atmosphere today?

KATE MATHER: There’s a big sense of relief is what we’re hearing, is a lot of people who again said they were on edge and tense the last couple days, some people told us they had been keeping their guns handy.

But, today, they said they’re much more relaxed now. Even though, again, there’s been no official word that that body is Dorner’s people seem to think that it is. There’s a lot of people saying that they’re relieved, they’re glad it’s all over, that they don’t have to worry anymore. But there’s also a sense that it’s a bittersweet moment for many people up there.

When one of my colleagues spoke to the Big Bear mayor, he pointed out that, although there is the sense of relief for the community, they also are very saddened by the fact that one sheriff’s deputy was killed and another wounded while trying to protect the people up there. So they are very aware that that is going on and very upset about that, that that happened.

JEFFREY BROWN: And the police even though they’re being cautious and still continuing the investigation, but it looks like they have gone back into something more like a normal mode?

KATE MATHER: Mm-hmm. You could definitely — it’s one of those situations here, while we don’t have official word, you can kind of tell by some of the behavior that law enforcement too is a bit more relaxed.

Los Angeles police resumed normal operations as of last night is what a lieutenant told us this morning. And the 50 or so protective details that had been issued for some of the people named in the manifesto alleged to be Dorner’s, those protective details, most of them had been lifted. There were about a dozen that remained.

But you could definitely tell, at least down here in Los Angeles, that there seemed to be — people seem to be more relaxed.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Kate Mather of The Los Angeles Times, thanks so much.

KATE MATHER: Thank you.

JEFFREY BROWN: And on our website, we have linked to more reporting from Southern California Public Radio. You will find any significant developments there tonight.