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California authorities identify remains of fugitive ex-cop

LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck (R) speaks as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (L) looks on during a news conference at the LAPD Headqu
LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck (R) speaks as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (L) looks on during a news conference at the LAPD Headqu

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Medical examiners on Thursday positively identified the remains of a fugitive former Los Angeles policeman wanted for a grudge-driven killing spree, capping a manhunt ranked by authorities as the most extensive ever in Southern California.

The remains, charred beyond recognition, were removed from the burned-out ruins of a mountain cabin where Christopher Dorner, 33, made his last stand on Tuesday in a deadly shootout with police that ended with the cabin going up in flames.

Medical examiners used dental records to conclusively determine that the remains were those of Dorner, the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department said, bringing to an official end an exhaustive search for the former Los Angeles police officer who was fired in 2008.

Dorner, who also served as an officer in the U.S. Navy reserves, was accused of killing four people since February 3, including a sheriff's deputy shot during the standoff on Tuesday in the San Bernardino Mountains.

"The investigation continues," Lieutenant Andy Neiman, an LAPD spokesman, told Reuters. "They have to investigate all the fact of these homicides to make sure he acted alone."

Neiman added that to date, there was no evidence to suggest that Dorner had any accomplices.

An angry manifesto found posted last week on Dorner's Facebook page claimed he had been wrongly terminated from the Los Angeles Police Department and vowed to seek revenge by unleashing "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" on police officers and their families.

He had been on the run since last Wednesday, when he was named as the prime suspect in the slayings of a couple, including the daughter of a retired LAPD police captain, in Irvine, south of Los Angeles.

TRAIL WENT COLD FOR DAYS

The search intensified the next morning after run-ins with police in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, where Dorner is accused of wounding one officer in a gun battle and later ambushing two policemen at a traffic light, killing one and wounding the other.

Police said Dorner also was believed to have made a failed attempt to steal a boat from a San Diego yacht club.

Law enforcement converged later that day in the San Bernardino Mountains after a pickup truck identified as Dorner's was found abandoned and burning in the snow near the ski resort community of Big Bear Lake. But the trail appeared to go cold as heavy snow fell in the mountains that night.

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.

Los Angeles assigned special security details throughout the area to protect about 50 members of the department and their families believed to be in particular danger of being attacked.

But the Big Bear area remained a central focus of the search until Dorner resurfaced two days ago, when he was discovered to have broken into a vacation home, tied up a couple there and made off in their car. The couple managed to free themselves and alert authorities.

After carjacking another vehicle and exchanging gunfire with state game wardens who spotted him making a getaway, Dorner ultimately fled on foot to another cabin and engaged in a shootout with sheriff's deputies who closed in on him there, killing and wounding another.

As authorities shot tear gas canisters into the cabin, the building erupted in flames and burned to the ground. Human remains were found in the rubble that night but it took investigators two days to make a positive ID.

San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said on Wednesday the tear gas canisters may have ignited the blaze but were not intended to do so.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Beck issued a statement Thursday saying that officials from the various agencies that posted a $1 million reward for tips leading to Dorner's capture would meet to "collectively determine whether any individual or individuals qualify for it."

Authorities said it was the largest sum ever offered in a Southern California criminal investigation.

Beck announced last week that he was opening a new inquiry into the disciplinary proceedings that led to Dorner being dismissed in September 2008 on grounds that he lied in accusing a training officer of using excessive force against a homeless man.

A separate inquiry is being conducted into the accidental shooting and wounding of two women by LAPD officers who mistook the pickup truck the women were using to deliver newspapers for the vehicle that Dorner was driving last Thursday.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Lisa Shumaker and Xavier Briand)

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