Search teams stymied by fresh snow and a low cloud ceiling resumed the hunt Saturday in the mountains east of Los Angeles for a fugitive ex-cop who has eluded hundreds of heavily armed police after a five-day revenge killing spree.
Christopher Dorner, 33, is wanted in connection with a double homicide and the killing of a police officer in a rampage that police say stems from his dismissal from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2008.
Police had swarmed into the Big Bear Lake ski area in the San Bernardino mountains 80 miles east of Los Angeles Thursday after Dorner's burned-out pickup was found. They followed his tracks into the forest until they petered out on frozen ground and amid new snowfall.
They have also been going door-to-door, checking lodges, huts and unoccupied cabins, and trekking through snowy forests at this popular resort nestled in jagged peaks at an elevation of 7,000 feet.
"He can be behind every tree," said T. Gregory Hall, a retired tactical supervisor for a special emergency response team for the Pennsylvania State Police. "He can try to draw them into an ambush area where he backtracks."
KTLA-TV, quoting a source with knowledge of the investigation, reported Saturday that footprints appeared to show that Dorner doubled back into the community after his vehicle broke down, but that it was unclear where he may have gone from there or by what means.
"The possibility exists that he is here, somewhere in the forest, so we're going to keep looking ... until we determine that he's not here," Cindy Bachman, spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, told reporters Friday night.
Dorner's burned truck appeared to have a damaged or broken axle, Irvine police Lt. Julia Engen said Saturday. But she said it was unknown whether the damage occurred before the fire or when it was being removed from the forest by authorities.
Bachman confirmed that Dorner's mother owns undeveloped property in Arrowbear, about 35 miles away from the scene. She said authorities searched and cleared that site.
The manhunt, however, was not confined to this mountainous areas. Thousands of heavily armed police remained on the lookout throughout California, Nevada, Arizona and northern Mexico for a suspect they say is bent on revenge and willing to die.
Jamie Usera, an attorney in Salem, Ore., who befriended Dorner when they were students and football teammates at Southern Utah University, said he introduced him to the outdoors. Originally from Alaska, Usera said, he taught Dorner about hunting and other outdoor activities.
"Of all the people I hung out with in college, he is the last guy I would have expected to be in this kind of situation," Usera, who said he had had lost touch with Dorner inrecent years, told the Los Angeles Times.
Heavy patrols and watches were especially vigilant in the Los Angeles area because of Dorner's threats against police officers and their families.
"We hope it ends quickly without any more bloodshed or anyone else getting hurt,'' Los Angeles police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. "We are prepared to go as long as it takes. We're in it for the long haul.''
Police say Dorner has taunted authorities through a manifesto filled with vows of revenge on police officers and their families.
Irvine (Calf.) Police Chief David Maggard named Dorner Wednesday night as the suspect in the slayings of Monica Quan, 28, an assistant basketball coach at California State University-Fullerton, and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, a University of Southern California campus security officer.
The couple were found dead of multiple gunshot wounds in their car outside their Irvine condominium Sunday night.
Quan was the daughter of Randy Quan, a retired LAPD captain who represented Dorner in the review process that led to his dismissal from the force for making false statements.
Randy Quan was the first Chinese-American to attain the rank of captain on the LAPD force, the department has said. He later served as chief of police at Cal Poly-Pomona, part of the California State University system.
Maggard said Dorner implicated himself in the killings in the manifesto.
"When the truth comes out, the killing stops," the document reads. "The attacks will stop when the department states the truth about my innocence. PUBLICLY!!! I will not accept any type of currency/goods in exchange for the attacks to stop, no do I want it. I want my name back, period. There is no negotiation."
He is also wanted in the shooting of three Los Angeles-area police officer on Thursday, one of whom died.
The police headquarters building in downtown Los Angeles was ringed by officers on foot and parked patrol cars, and snipers were in place on the roof in case the wanted ex-cop who vowed warfare against police and their families made a move there. Other police stations throughout the area had heavy visible protection as well.
In an ll-page document, the author baited authorities.
"Any threat assessments you generate will be useless," it read. "I have the strength and benefits of being unpredictable, unconventional, and unforgiving."
Dorner served in the Navy, 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. He took leave from the LAPD for a six-month deployment to Bahrain in 2006 and 2007.
"Here's the bottom line: We don't know if he's on foot or not," Los Angeles Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese told the Associated Press. "Is he on foot up on the mountain? Is he down the mountain? We don't know."
Contributing: The Associated Press
Rick Jervis, USA TODAY USATODAY