SAN BERNARDINO, California (Reuters) - A fugitive former policeman whose charred remains were found in a burned-out cabin in the mountains above Los Angeles following a shootout with sheriff’s deputies died from a possibly self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said on Friday.
An autopsy on Christopher Dorner, 33, found he was killed by a single shot to the head, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Captain Kevin Lacy told a news conference. Authorities have not yet determined who fired that fatal round.
“The information we have seems to indicate that the wound that took Christopher Dorner’s life was self inflicted,” Lacy said.
Dorner was accused of killing four people since February 3, including a deputy shot during the gun battle on Tuesday in Southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains, where he had holed up.
A manifesto posted on his Facebook page last week claimed that he had been wrongly terminated from the Los Angeles Police Department and would seek revenge by unleashing “unconventional and asymmetrical warfare” on police officers and their families.
During the news conference, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon stood by his insistence that deputies did not intentionally torch the cabin where Dorner had taken cover.
McMahon has faced questions over his department’s tactics since voices were heard shouting “Burn it down!” on an audio recording of the gun battle played on local KCAL-TV and on CNN.
“There is some recordings that I have heard on the news that would suggest that somebody, we have no idea at this point who, made those comments,” he said. “We are looking into those and we will deal with those appropriately. I would suggest to you that those comments were made by somebody away from the tactical team.”
The sheriff also defended the apparent failure of his deputies to discover Dorner in one of the hundreds of cabins in the Big Bear area, despite assurances that they were making a systematic search.
McMahon said a cabin in which Dorner had hidden had been checked on Thursday evening, hours after Dorner’s burned-out truck was found on a fire road in the area, but that deputies had found the door locked with no signs of forced entry.
“We did scour that area thoroughly. Our deputy sheriffs did a great job checking that neighborhood,” he said. “My instructions were that we were not going to kick the doors open to unoccupied residences or ones where nobody answered.”
Authorities displayed several of the weapons Dorner carried as he fled police, including an imposing Remington Model 700 rifle about the length of a human leg with the word “vengeance” inscribed above the rifle’s butt.
Dorner had numerous assault weapons and semi-automatic handguns, as well as 10 silencers, a military-style Kevlar helmet and a tactical vest with high-capacity rifle magazines and teargas canisters attached to it, said San Bernardino Sheriff’s Sergeant Trevis Newport.
Police are investigating how he had obtained the weapons.
Dorner had been on the run since at least last Wednesday, when he was named as the prime suspect in the February 3 slayings of a couple, including the daughter of a retired Los Angeles police captain, in Irvine, south of Los Angeles.
The ensuing manhunt involved more than 1,000 officers from over a dozen local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and stretched from the Mexican border to the California desert north of the San Bernardinos.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck called it the largest in the region’s history.
Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Bob Burgdorfer and Lisa Shumaker