LOS ANGELES — The search for suspected cop killer Christopher Dorner has become one of the largest dragnets in Los Angeles history, now spreading south to the Mexican border with a $1 million reward offered for the fugitive’s capture and conviction.
Along with many unknowns relating to Dorner’s whereabouts and conditions, expert commentators have begun to question how his mental health played a role in his crimes, and whether racism and exposure to warfare overseas may have factored into his psyche.
In his 14-page written manifesto, the 33-year-old accounted for a lifelong plight of oppression, beginning from his grade school years as the only black student at an elementary school in Norwalk, CA, to the alleged racial injustices he witnessed working in the Los Angeles Police Department. It may have been a culmination of these incidents that have led to Dorner’s firing from the department in 2008 when he filed a report against a fellow officer that the police claim was false.
“The LAPD’s actions have cost me my law enforcement career,” Dorner writes in his manifesto. “I lost my position as a Commanding Officer of a Naval Security Forces reserve unit at NAS Fallon because of the LAPD. I’ve lost a relationship with my mother and sister because of the LAPD. I’ve lost a relationship with close friends because of the LAPD. In essence, I’ve lost everything because the LAPD took my name and [knew] I was INNOCENT!!!”
Dorner details all his accusations against the department, commenting, “With the discovery and evidence available you will see the truth. Unfortunately, I will not be alive to see my name cleared. That’s what this is about, my name. A man is nothing without his name.”
At present, Dorner’s rampage has allegedly led to the deaths of three people – the daughter of his former LAPD captain, her fiancée, and another police officer – and the injury of two others. He has also pledged to kill more as a means of avenging the department, which he believes “has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days.”
What’s caught most people off-guard about Dorner’s alleged killing spree is his change in character, from a man who lived as a relatively outstanding citizen, serving his country and giving back to those in need, to an assassin. Though his ex-girlfriend has called him paranoid, most people speak highly of Dorner, a guy who once returned $8,000 of church money that he found in the middle of the road to a local parish in Oklahoma.
According to Dorner’s friend, James Usera, up to this point Dorner could only be described as regular.
“In my experience, he was a normal guy,” Usera tells theGrio. “I didn’t find him to be moody or temperamental or aggressive or violent or anything like that, and so these actions are pretty extraordinary to say the least.”
Usera, an attorney in Oregon, played football with Dorner at Southern Utah University in the late 1990s, and the two became friends on and off the field.
According to Usera, Dorner was always sensitive towards racial misconduct, but never in way that was particularly militant or volatile.
“He’d notice something that he believed to be racially-motivated, and he would just point it out; I never saw him act on it,” Usera describes. “He never flipped out on anybody, or lost his temper or anything like that.”
“He was a person of conviction,” he adds. “I found him to be a someone who was honest and a person of integrity, and if he believed something, that’s what he believed. You weren’t going to talk him out of it.”
In Dorner’s 6,000-word manifesto he makes his convictions pretty clear, along with other ramblings and the promise to stop at nothing in support of his cause. He claims he has “no fear of death,” and that so-called analysts should make note of his qualifications in “small arms training, demolition, ordinance, and survival training.”
Dorner has presumably relied on such military skills to evade capture over the past five days, leading police on a chase across the state of California, into Nevada and perhaps to Mexico with little in the way of leads. Dorner’s truck was found deserted and in flames on the side of Bear Mountain, Calif. on Feb. 7, but the evidence did not lead investigators to his hiding place. Inside the vehicle, night vision goggles, a gas mask, cot, and cold weather gear were found, a testament to the former Navy reservist’s strategic preparation.
Officers were also led to San Diego, where Dorner unsuccessfully attempted to steal a boat, claiming “he was taking the vessel to Mexico.” Authorities later found his wallet and identification cards at the U.S.- Mexico Border.
Additionally, a Lowe’s store in Northridge was evacuated on Sunday after police received two separate calls from people who saw someone resembling Dorner.
It all adds up to the makings of a unique criminal, one whose actions are predicated by a long-winded plan posted on Facebook shortly before the shootings.