BIG BEAR, Calif. - The extraordinary manhunt for the former Los Angeles police officer suspected of three murders converged Tuesday on a mountain cabin where authorities believe he barricaded himself inside, engaged in a shootout that killed a deputy and then never emerged as the home went up in flames.
A single gunshot was heard from within. Authorities believe the suspect was inside when the cabin burned, a San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman said late Tuesday night.
There were conflicting reports about whether a body was found inside the burned-out cabin. Several law enforcement sources told many news organizations that a body was found in the rubble. But L.A. police officials said the cabin was still too hot to search and no body had been found.
If Christopher Dorner did die in the cabin, as authorities suspect, the search for the most wanted man in America over the last week would have ended the way he had expected - death, with police pursuing him.
Thousands of officers had been on the hunt for the former Navy reservist since police said he launched a campaign to exact revenge against the Los Angeles Police Department for his firing. They say he threatened to bring "warfare" to officers and their families, spreading fear and setting off a search for him across the Southwest and Mexico.
"Enough is enough. It's time for you to turn yourself in. It's time to stop the bloodshed," LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said at a news conference held outside police headquarters in Los Angeles, a starkly different atmosphere from last week, when officials briefed the news media under tight security with Dorner on the loose.
A short time after Smith spoke Tuesday, smoke began to rise from the cabin in the snow-covered woods near Big Bear Lake, a resort town about 80 miles east of Los Angeles. Flames then engulfed the building - images that were broadcast on live television around the world. TV helicopters showed the fire burning freely with no apparent effort to extinguish it.
"We have reason to believe that it is him," said San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cynthia Bachman, adding that she didn't know how the fire started. She noted there was gunfire between the person in the cabin and officers around the home before the blaze began.
Until Tuesday, authorities didn't know whether Dorner was still near Big Bear Lake, where they found his burned-out pickup last week.
About 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, deputies got a report of a stolen pickup truck, authorities said. The location was directly across the street from where law enforcement set up their command post on Thursday and not far from where Dorner's pickup was abandoned. The owner of the vehicle taken Tuesday described the suspect as looking similar to Dorner.
A warden for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife traveling down Highway 38 recognized a man who fit Dorner's description traveling in the opposite direction. The officer pursued the vehicle, and there was a shooting at 12:42 p.m. in which the wildlife vehicle was hit numerous times and the gunman escaped on foot after crashing his truck.
After the shooter holed up in the cabin, there was a second gunbattle with San Bernardino County deputies, two of whom were shot. One died and the other was expected to live after surgery.
The man believed to be Dorner never came out of the cabin, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The official reiterated that a charred body was found, even after Los Angeles and San Bernardino authorities disputed it. The official requested anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
Police say Dorner began his run on Feb. 6 after they connected the slayings of a former police captain's daughter and her fiancé with an angry Facebook rant they said he posted. Threats against the LAPD led officials to assign officers to protect officers and their families.
Within hours of the release of photos of the 6-foot, 270-pounder described as armed and "extremely dangerous," police say Dorner unsuccessfully tried to steal a boat in San Diego to flee to Mexico and opened fire on two patrol cars in Riverside County, shooting three officers and killing one.
Police found weapons and camping gear inside the charred truck in Big Bear. Helicopters using heat-seeking technology searched the forest from above while officers, some using bloodhounds, scoured the ground.
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