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Manhunt Continues for Fugitive Cop Wanted for Murder in California

February 11, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
Former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner began a deadly shooting spree on Feb. 7, killing three people. Since then, authorities in California, Nevada, and Arizona have initiated a massive manhunt for Dorner. Ray Suarez gets an update on the search from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
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RAY SUAREZ: And we turn to the search for the ex-officer wanted in multiple killings in California. Authorities have been given hundreds of tips for the suspect, who is still at large. But he was charged today with the murder of a Riverside police officer and the attempted murder of other officers.

Those charges could bring the death penalty. The manhunt was in its fifth day, as law enforcement agencies across Southern California kept looking for Christopher Dorner. Authorities said they’re hoping a $1 million dollar reward will yield new leads on Dorner’s whereabouts.

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, D-Los Angeles: Our dedication to catching this killer remains steadfast.

RAY SUAREZ: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the reward yesterday.

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA: We will not tolerate this reign of terror that has robbed us of the peace of mind that residents of Southern California deserve.

RAY SUAREZ: Dorner is wanted for the murder of a retired police captain’s daughter and her fiance in Irvine eight days ago. The 33-year-old fugitive also allegedly killed a Riverside police officer in an ambush last Thursday.

Investigators fear Dorner plans more killings as revenge against the L.A. Police Department. It fired him five years ago for falsely accusing his training officer of kicking a suspect. Authorities found Dorner’s burned pickup truck near the Big Bear ski resort late last week, but they have since been forced to scale back the search in order to protect 50 police families believed to be in danger, while still answering regular calls for assistance.

Police Chief Charlie Beck:

POLICE CHIEF CHARLIE BECK, Los Angeles: Obviously, we’re getting tips since the reward offer like crazy. We have three times the amount of tips that we did yesterday. We’re following up on every one of them. So, hopefully, there’s a nugget in there that will lead us to his capture.

RAY SUAREZ: So far, there have only been false sightings of Dorner, including one at this Northridge-area Lowe’s store yesterday. Meanwhile, the L.A. Police Department has reopened its investigation into the case that prompted Dorner’s firing.

I spoke to Mayor Villaraigosa a short time ago to discuss how the city is dealing with the manhunt, as well as some of the questions raised by this case.

Mayor, welcome back to the NewsHour.

Let’s start with the state of the search. Is there any progress to report? Who is helping you and where are you concentrating?

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA: I can’t tell you that there are any — that there’s any progress to report.

I can tell you that we’re following many, many leads. It’s over 1,000 leads now. We’re looking for him. We have got our best detectives and investigators on this. We’re working with the city of Irvine and the city and county of Riverside, the county of San Bernardino, the Marshals Service, the FBI. We’re all working and collaborating to find Christopher Dorner as soon as possible.

RAY SUAREZ: You mentioned the large number of leads. Have some of those come in response to your recently offered million-dollar reward?

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA: Yes. Some have come in response to that.

 

But we’re following every single lead. We take this matter very, very seriously. Remember, there are three people dead, killed in cold blood by Christopher Dorner, a man who is obviously armed and dangerous, who has targeted some 50 individuals and families, who clearly is bent on some kind of revenge.

And we’re doing everything we can to find him, to arrest him and to bring him to justice.

RAY SUAREZ: You mentioned the target list. You have also got a large number of LAPD assets involved in the search itself. Add to that an event like the Grammy awards with a large number of VIPs in town. Has your police department been spread a little thin the last couple of days?

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA: Well, they’re certainly feeling the strain of having to deploy as many resources as they have and particularly during this time.

But I will tell you, I couldn’t be prouder of the men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department and of the law enforcement agencies that have been working on this. They take this personal when people’s families are being subjected to threats of this nature. And they’re working as hard as they can to bring Christopher Dorner to justice.

RAY SUAREZ: Are there any credible sightings since Thursday, when the burned-out pickup truck was found, or any reasonable tips that give you an idea of his movements?

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA: No, there are no credible sightings that I know of. And I have been briefed almost hourly, and certainly whenever there’s a new development.

I can tell you that we’re following every lead. We don’t know his whereabouts, but we have extended the area that we’re looking for him in. We’re doing everything we can. We recognize what a threat he is to the public and to the people on that list.

RAY SUAREZ: In recent days, your police chief, Charlie Beck, has announced he wants to reopen, reexamine the files of the case that led to the firing of Christopher Dorner. Why did your chief feel that was necessary? What might be in there?

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA: Well, look, the chief is committed to constitutional policing, committed to making sure that our department is transparent as possible in everything we do.

In order to address any concerns that some in the public may have with respect to what happened in the case of Mr. Dorner, he’s reopened this investigation. But I will say this. There is absolutely nothing, Ray, nothing that could have happened to him to justify killing three people in cold blood, three innocent people.

Remember, he ambushed Officer Crain and his partner. He shot at and tried to kill two LAPD officers. He killed Captain Quan’s daughter and her fiancé in cold blood. This is a man who is hell-bent on mayhem and destruction, who is willing to kill, and nothing that could have happened to him justifies those kinds of atrocious acts, frankly.

RAY SUAREZ: This is not in any way to justify or explain what Christopher Dorner has done. But when the city is in a crisis like this, when there is a case of this kind, is there a history that has to be reckoned with between the LAPD and the people of the city of Los Angeles, between the officers of color and the people of color and the LAPD?

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA: Well, look, as you probably know, we were under a consent decree for a long time.

I have worked hard with the chief and with Chief Bratton before him to get us out of that consent decree. We absolutely committed to constitutional and community policing. There is more public support among communities of color for our police department than any time in our history. We are now the most diverse that we have ever been. About almost 75 percent of our police officers come from communities of color, Latino, African-American and Asian. About 20 percent are women.

We are absolutely committed to working and collaborating with every community, respecting the rights of the people in our community. And, as I said, this is a separate matter, that the chief decided that we were going to be as transparent as possible with respect to what happened to Mr. Dorner. But, as I said, there is nothing, absolutely nothing that justifies killing people in cold blood in the way that he has.

And there are many who would say that the department was right in firing him, given what he has done now in this situation.

RAY SUAREZ: Antonio Villaraigosa is the mayor of Los Angeles.

Mayor, thanks for joining us.

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA: Thank you for having me.

RAY SUAREZ: Online, we link to resources from Southern California Public Radio, including a timeline of events from Christopher Dorner’s life.