Clear sky aids hunt for fugitive ex-cop
By TAMI ABDOLLAH, The Associated Press
BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. -- A scaled-back search party took advantage of a break from stormy weather Saturday to hunt for a former Los Angeles police officer suspected in three killings, using heat-sensing helicopters and fanning out in fresh snow as vacationing families and weekend skiers frolicked nearby.
The stark blue skies that emerged after a Friday snowstorm allowed San Bernardino County sheriff's choppers to fly low over the forest and SWAT teams to look for tracks and other clues that might lead to Christopher Dorner, 33, whose burned-out pickup truck was discovered in town Thursday.
Authorities suspect Dorner in a series of attacks in Southern California over the past several days that left three people dead, including a police officer. Authorities say he has vowed revenge against several former LAPD colleagues who he believed cost him his law enforcement career.
The manhunt didn't appear to bother the majority of tourists intent on enjoying Saturday's perfect winter weather, which made for strikingly odd contrasts: the sound of barking bloodhounds mixed with rap music blaring off the ski slopes; a family with kids strolling by a deputy, who was clad in full tactical gear and practicing his aim on a small snowdrift.
San Bernardino County sheriff's Detective Chad Johnson said he and others were intent on finding Dorner but also looking for other telltale signs of his whereabouts.
"There's a million clues in the mountain. You've just got to be patient to find them," Johnson said.
Johnson said the search includes mountainous areas that are very steep and high climbs that often end in cliffs.
"It's a challenging day of work," he said.
Saturday was the third full day of the massive multi-agency effort now centered on this resort town about 80 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. Investigators continue to analyze the burned-out truck discovered Thursday, trying to determine whether Dorner torched it or if it caught fire for other reasons.
The search once included 125 officers but that number was reduced to 50 on Saturday, according to the sheriff's office.
Officers have been going door to door examining hundreds of vacant cabins, aware that they could be walking into a trap set by the well-trained former Navy reservist who knows their tactics and strategies.
"Christopher Dorner is probably one of the most dangerous fugitives that law enforcement has gone after in recent times," said Clint Van Zandt, former supervisor of FBI's profiling unit. n