IRVINE, California (AP) — The manhunt for a fugitive ex-police officer wanted in the slayings of three people has stretched thin the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department and put fear into southern California towns.
Police have been searching for fired officer Christopher Dorner since last week and protecting dozens of families considered targets based on his Facebook rant against those he held responsible for ending his career with the LAPD five years ago. Among those Dorner, 33, is suspected of killing is a police officer.
The department remained on tactical alert Monday, which means officers are staying on duty beyond their shifts. The additional security needed for the Grammy Awards on Sunday night alsostretched police resources. The alert was called on Sunday afternoon, before the nighttime Grammys, said officer Sara Faden.
A $1 million reward offered for information leading to Dorner’s capture took authorities to a home improvement store over the weekend but so far prompted no credible leads in the search. Police turned up no evidence that Dorner had been at the Lowe’s Home Improvement store in LA’s San Fernando Valley.
Police also surrounded the home of a possible target in a quiet Southern California suburb. Small towns remained on edge from the din of police helicopters and cruisers staking out schools.
After days without resolution, Dorner’s fugitive status caused concern among some and downright fear among others in Irvine, an upscale community that the FBI consistently ranks among the safest cities in the U.S.
“If he did come around this corner, what could happen? We’re in the crossfire, with the cops right there,” said Irvine resident Joe Palacio, who lives down the street from the home surrounded by authorities protecting a police captain mentioned in Dorner’s posting.
The neighborhood has been flooded with authorities since Wednesday. Residents have seen police helicopters circle and cruisers stake out schools. Some have responded by keeping their children home. Others no longer walk their dogs at night.
Police also were looking into a taunting phone call to the father of the woman they believe Dorner killed last week.
Two law enforcement officers who requested anonymity because of the ongoing investigation told The Associated Press they are trying to determine whether Dorner made the call telling retired police Capt. Randal Quan that he should have done a better job protecting his daughter.
The bodies of Monica Quan and her fiance were found shot dead last Sunday in Irvine, marking the start of the high-profile case.
Things escalated early Thursday, when police say Dorner got into a shootout with police in Corona, grazing an LAPD officer’s head with a bullet before escaping. Authorities believe he then used a rifle to ambush two Riverside police officers, killing one and seriously wounding the other.
Police had withheld the names of victims both living and dead victims because of fears of Dorner targeting their families, but on Sunday the Riverside Police Department released the name of the officer killed, 34-year-old ex-Marine and 11 year department veteran Michael Crain.
The Anaheim native and father of two will be buried Wednesday.
Riverside police Chief Sergio Diaz said police had hoped Dorner would be in custody by now, but they decided to proceed with the identification and public memorial.
About 65 miles (105 kilometers) away, the manhunt continued in the San Bernardino mountains near the ski resort town of Big Bear, where authorities found Dorner’s burned out pickup truck Thursday. Police have since said they discovered weapons and camping gear inside the vehicle.
The search scaled down as the weekend went on, but a helicopter with heat-seeking technology scanned the area as two dozen officers went back to some of the 600 cabins they earlier visited door to door.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said despite the dwindling search, there was not another area that appeared more likely than Big Bear where Dorner might be, saying the suspect’s chances to plan beforehand may have helped him remain elusive.
Police and city officials believe the $1 million reward, raised from both public and private sources, would give them better options.
With little apparent evidence pointing to Dorner’s whereabouts, worrisome questions emerged: How long could the intense search be sustained? And, if Dorner continues to evade capture, how do authorities protect dozens of former police colleagues whom he has publicly targeted?
LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the department has deployed 50 protection details to guard officers and their families who are deemed targets in Dorner’s manifesto.
Associated Press writer Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles contributed.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.