Dorner Case: Charred Human Remains Found in Cabin at Site of Shootout
Late Tuesday night, once it was deemed safe for access by authorities, investigators at the scene of a shootout, standoff, and fire at a mountain cabin outside of Big Bear were able to enter the burned-out building where they located charred human remains.
Authorities with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department--the agency handling this case--have said clearly that it will require forensic examination to make an identification on the remains.
The presumption held by many, however, is that the remains are those of former Los Angeles Police Department officer Christopher Jordan Dorner, who has been the focus of a nearly week-long manhunt after he was connected to the killings of an Irvine couple and a Riverside Police officer.
Deputies with the SBCSD and officers from assisting agencies became involved in a shootout with a heavily armed suspect who barricaded himself in the empty cabin in the Seven Oaks area of the San Bernardino National Forest. Officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife were the first to spot the suspect when they saw him driving in a truck that had been reported stolen. A brief pursuit ensued, but the suspect crashed the truck, a Nissan Titan, and emerged from the woods soon after and carjacked a second truck.
That truck, a light-colored pickup truck, belonged to Rick Heltebrake, an employee at a nearby Boy Scout camp, according to L.A. Now. According to reports given by Heltebrake's friend, with whom the carjacking victim spoke after the incident, Heltebrake was confronted by a large African American male who stepped into the road and ordered him out of the truck. Heltebrake complied.
The suspect sped off but again encountered officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, with whom he became engaged in an exchange of gunfire. The suspect drove the truck off the road then fled on foot into the nearest cabin.
Having called for backup, deputies with the SBCSD and assisting officers arrived at the cabin, and a shootout ensued. Much of that shootout was caught and broadcast on air by a cameraman and reporter from L.A.'s CBS affiliate. In that shootout, two SBCSD deputies were struck by gunfire, and one deputy died of his injuries after being airlifted to Loma Linda Medical Center.
After the gunfire subsided, the suspect remained barricaded in the cabin. A request was made for media helicopters to pull back on their positions above the cabin.
Smoke was seen coming from the cabin, and that smoke grew as flames became visible.
A number of unconfirmed reports surfaced that there had been a single gunshot heard within the cabin before deputies used a vehicle to bring down the walls one by one as the fire, possibly caused by tear gas and exacerbated by the ammunition the suspect had brought inside, consumed the cabin.
Specifics about the tactical operation that took place, however, have not been made available or confirmed, and SBCSD spokeswoman Cindy Bachman emphasized during a late briefing Tuesday night that the deputies were awaiting access to the smoldering ruins and then would have a large crime scene to process.
Read our live blog of the standoff Tuesday