Christopher Dorner Manhunt: Charred body found in burned cabin, police await ID of remains

Scene of a shootout at Big Bear Lake, Calif. where Christopher Dorner barricaded himself in a vacation cabin on Feb. 12, 2013 before it engulfed in flames
CBS Los Angeles
Scene of a shootout at Big Bear Lake, Calif. where Christopher Dorner barricaded himself in a vacation cabin on Feb. 12, 2013 before it engulfed in flames
CBS Los Angeles

(CBS/AP) BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. - Authorities are trying to determine whether a charred body found inside a burned-out cabin is that of Christopher Dorner, after a furious shootout Tuesday in which the fugitive ex-cop killed one sheriff's deputy and wounded another before the building erupted in flames.

PICTURES: Ex-LAPD cop accused of going on killing spree

The massive manhunt for 33-year-old Dorner ended abruptly Tuesday when a man believed to be Dorner bolted from hiding, stole two cars, barricaded himself in a vacant cabin and mounted a last stand in a shootout before the building caught on fire.

He never emerged from the ruins and hours later a charred body was found inside. Dorner reportedly said in a lengthy rant on Facebook that he expected to die in one final, violent confrontation with police.

"We have reason to believe that it is him," San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cynthia Bachman said.

The apparent end came very close to where his trail went cold six days earlier, when police found his burning pickup truck - with guns and camping gear inside - abandoned on a fire road in the San Bernardino National Forest near Big Bear Lake.

With no sign of him and few leads, police offered a $1 million reward to bring him to justice and end a "reign of terror" that had more than 50 families of targeted Los Angeles police officers under round-the-clock protection after he threatened to bring "warfare" to the LAPD, officers and their kin.

Word came around Tuesday that a man matching Dorner's description tied up two people in a Big Bear Lake cabin, stole their car and fled. Authorities didn't immediately give more details on the two people.

Game wardens from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife who were part of the search detail gave chase after spotting the reported stolen purple Nissan, department spokesman Lt. Patrick Foy said. The driver looked like Dorner.

They lost the purple car after it passed a school bus and turned onto a side road, but two other Fish and Wildlife patrols searching for the car spotted a white pickup truck that sped erratically toward the wardens on that road a short time later.

"He took a close look at the driver and realized it was the suspect," Foy said.

Dorner, who allegedly stole the pickup truck at gunpoint after crashing the first car, rolled down a window and opened fire on the wardens, striking a warden's truck more than a dozen times.

One of the wardens shot at the suspect as he rounded a curve in the road. It's unclear if he hit him, but the stolen pickup careened off the road and crashed in a snow bank. Dorner then ran on foot to the cabin where he barricaded himself and got in a shootout with San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies and other officers who arrived.

Two deputies were shot, one fatally.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press under condition of anonymity that a SWAT team surrounded the cabin and used an armored vehicle to break out the cabin windows. The officers then pumped a gas into the cabin and blasted a message over a loudspeaker: "Surrender or come out."

The armored vehicle then tore down each of the cabin's four walls.

A single shot was heard inside before the cabin was engulfed in flames, according to the official.

Police said Dorner began his run on Feb. 6 after they connected the slayings of a former police captain's daughter and her fiance with his angry manifesto. Dorner blamed LAPD Capt. Randal Quan for providing poor representation before the police disciplinary board that fired him for filing a false report.

Dorner, who is black, claimed in his online rant that he was the subject of racism by the department and was targeted for doing the right thing.

Chief Charlie Beck, who initially dismissed Dorner's allegations, said he would reopen the investigation into his firing -- not to appease the ex-officer, but to restore confidence in the black community, which had a long fractured relationship with police that improved in recent years.

Dorner vowed to get even with those who wronged him as part of his plan to reclaim his good name.

"You're going to see what a whistleblower can do when you take everything from him especially his NAME!!!" the rant said. "You have awoken a sleeping giant."

Within hours of being named as a suspect in the killings and reported as being armed and "extremely dangerous," Dorner tried unsuccessfully to steal a boat in San Diego to flee to Mexico. After leaving a trail of evidence, he headed north where he opened fire on two patrol cars in Riverside County, shooting three officers and killing one.

With a description of his car broadcast all over the Southwest and Mexico, he managed to get to the mountains 80 miles east of Los Angeles where his burning truck was found with a broken axle. Only a short distance from the truck, he spent his final days holed up in a vacation cabin across the street from a police command post, a front-row seat to the search mobilized right outside.

Complete coverage of Christopher Dorner on Crimesider