LOS ANGELES (AP) — The payout of a $1.2 million reward offered in the hunt for rogue ex-cop Christopher Dorner could turn into a fight before anyone sees a penny.
A couple who was tied up in their condominium by the fugitive and a camp caretaker he carjacked shortly afterward have laid claim to the prize, and others could be in line for much of the money that authorities hope to dole out by mid-April.
Both parties claim they provided the key tip that ultimately led Dorner to hole up in a vacant mountain cabin where he apparently took his own life after a shootout with police. He killed four people, including two police officers, during his rampage across Southern California.
While crime rewards often drive tipsters underground to protect their identity, the Dorner reward has had the opposite effect.
“Everybody’s coming out of the woodwork on this one,” said Los Angeles police Lt. Andy Neiman. “These people are being very public about it because they know Dorner can’t come after them.”
During the manhunt, Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa coordinated a $1 million reward from more than 30 agencies or corporations, including the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Los Angeles Dodgers, AEG and the University of Southern California. The Los Angeles City Council and Board of Supervisors also each put up a separate $100,000 reward with its own protocol and requirements.
The slew of groups involved has made the payout process slow and bureaucratic.
“It’s actually a multi-headed hydra here,” said Frank Mateljian, a spokesman with the city attorney’s office.
Officials are waiting on a handful of law enforcement agencies to determine who was responsible for Dorner’s capture, said Vicky Curry, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office.
Los Angeles police Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese, who is heading up the effort to identify those who helped lead authorities to Dorner, said law enforcement officers from all the agencies involved in the hunt will get together to read reports, listen to tapes and come to a consensus.
“We’re not going to be swayed by the fact that we’ve got letters from attorneys or they say they’re entitled for these reasons,’ Albanese said. “We’re going to make a determination as to who’s entitled based on (all) the facts.”
Details of the main $1-milllion reward offer were never written down and so it’s not specified as to whether Dorner must be “convicted,” as officials said when it was announced, Curry said. While the mayor’s office is coordinating the reward, determining the recipient could be left up to the agencies doling out the cash.
The mayor and police chief have both said they hope to see the money paid out.
There is no lack of possible people to credit.
There’s the man at a Corona gas station who waved down officers after spotting Dorner hours after authorities named him as an armed and dangerous fugitive. He was suspected of slaying a former police lieutenant’s daughter and her fiancé outside their Orange County condominium and had posted a manifesto online saying he was killing cops in revenge for his firing from the LAPD.
There was also an elderly San Diego sailor who Dorner tied up and tried to steal his yacht.
And then there were the last civilians to see him alive.
Karen and Jim Reynolds, who were briefly tied up by Dorner in the Big Bear Lake rental condo where he hid for days, contend that their 911 call led to the murder suspect being cornered last month.
Attorney Kirk Hallam wrote to LA County officials earlier this month that “no one else is entitled to a share of the reward.”
The Reynolds family disputes a claim filed by Rick Heltebrake, a Boy Scout camp ranger carjacked by Dorner shortly before the final confrontation.
There is “indisputable evidence,” Hallam wrote, that Heltebrake “did not in any way, shape or form contribute to the capture of Christopher Dorner.”
Heltebrake’s lawyer claimed in a letter that his client notified authorities of Dorner’s location, provided a description of the vehicle he was fleeing in, and “was a substantial factor in the capture of Mr. Dorner at the cabin location.”
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.