Alleged cop-killer Christopher Dorner, a Navy reservist and former officer with the Los Angeles Police Department who declared war on his former LAPD colleagues in a manifesto praising Obama and gun control, was confirmed dead by authorities on February 14 following a standoff with law enforcement ending Tuesday in a deadly blaze. In addition to Dorner, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremiah MacKay was also killed, reportedly shot by the rogue ex-cop at the mountain cabin where the rampage finally ended. Another deputy was reportedly wounded during a shoot-out.
Initially, officials were not sure that the former officer — accused of murdering four people during a rampage he said was aimed at clearing his name and exposing corruption in the LAPD — was actually the person killed in the cabin. However, according to a statement released on Thursday by the county coroner’s office, the charred remains were positively identified as Dorner’s.
"During the autopsy, positive identification was made through dental examination," the office said, putting an end to the confusion and speculation over whether or not the body was really that of the alleged murderer. The official cause of death still remains unclear, however, with media reports suggesting he was either killed by police bullets, the blazing inferno, or possibly even a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Now, there are also new questions being raised about the case and the massive manhunt. While the cop-killing fan of anti-gun CNN host Piers Morgan and other establishment media and political figures attracted some supporters to his murderous cause, analysts and even fierce Dorner critics are expressing serious concerns about his death. Some commentators, citing police radio transmissions released online, are claiming that Dorner was deliberately “executed” or even “murdered” by police.
According to critics of the operation, audio recordings of law enforcement communications during the standoff revealed officers deliberately plotting to kill Dorner rather than take him in alive to face trial. “Alright, we’re gonna go forward with the plan with the burner ... like we talked about,” one officer is heard saying, apparently referring to the use of incendiary tear-gas canisters. Another voice is later heard saying matter-of-factly: "burners deployed and we have a fire."
A separate police transmission broadcasted by a local news station reportedly revealed an officer saying “F------ burn this m-----f---- … burn that f------ house down.” Yet another clip, aired by a local CBS affiliate, allegedly features a police officer saying “get the gas, burn it down.” Numerous other, similar statements from police communications were documented in various media outlets, with more than a few posted on YouTube sparking serious criticism.
To critics and even some establishment media analysts, those law enforcement communications offer potential evidence of a deliberate plan to execute Dorner. Numerous commentators even tried to compare the siege and its blazing end to the infamous federal assault on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, that also reportedly involved the use of pyrotechnic tear gas well-known to cause fires.
After a long standoff between the sect and authorities, federal officials eventually burned the group’s compound down to the ground. In that case, however, dozens of innocent victims, including many women and children, were killed in the inferno. The attack — dubbed mass murder by more than a few critics — drew widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum.
In Dorner’s case, of course, he was the only one present in the cabin. But some experts still question the approach used by law enforcement. "You don't blow up something either by explosives or by fire in order to apprehend somebody," explained Fordham University law Professor James Cohen, who reportedly followed the standoff between Dorner and police very closely.
"It's the very definition of ‘excessive force' and the police aren't able to use excessive force in the execution of their duties,” Cohen was quoted as saying in Gawker. “We have good cause to be concerned about the inattentiveness of the importance of the rule of law. But we may never know — because who's going to admit to it?"
On the other hand, more than a few analysts and experts tried to justify the comments heard during the police transmissions. A CNN correspondent, for example, emphasized that Dorner had apparently just murdered yet another law enforcement officer, Deputy MacKay, during the standoff. Tensions were obviously running high.
In his manifesto, the alleged cop-killer — upset about being fired for supposedly reporting a superior who allegedly used excessive force during an arrest — had also vowed to murder other officers and even their family members. He specifically warned anyone trying to intervene that they may end up dead as well, sparking serious concerns about officer and citizen safety.
Law enforcement officials involved in the operation, meanwhile, specifically denied all allegations that the cabin where Dorner was holed-up had been deliberately set ablaze by law enforcement. "It was not on purpose. We did not intentionally burn down that cabin to get Mr. Dorner out," San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said during a press conference after the deadly siege, adding that he believed the investigation was over. "It was like a war zone, and our deputies continued to go into that area and tried to neutralize and stop the threat."
In an interview with CNN, however, former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes seemed baffled by the police chatter. “In a SWAT operation, they’re highly disciplined, highly professional. There’s not going to be that kind of shouting and, of course, the terminology, ‘burn it down,’ and things like that,” he said, suggesting that the language may not have come from officers. “The sheriff’s department’s going to have a lot of questions to answer about who was making those statements on the radio and why.”
Also troubling to those raising concerns about Dorner’s fiery death was a law enforcement request that media outlets stop broadcasting and reporting live information during the standoff. "The sheriff has asked all members of the press to stop tweeting immediately. It is hindering officer safety," the San Bernardino District Attorney said in a twitter post. The media promptly complied.
Officials justified the move by saying that the holed-up suspect, who wrote in his manifesto that he did not expect to come out of his “war” alive, might have been following the news to gather strategic information on the police operation. To some critics of the request, however, the voluntary “gag order” was actually aimed at ensuring that no press or cameras would be documenting what was about to unfold: The use of incendiary gas known for starting fires, which apparently was responsible for sparking the blaze that ultimately may have claimed Dorner’s life.
Even before the siege at the remote mountain cabin, analysts had expressed serious concerns about the tactics being employed by law enforcement during the manhunt. Early on, for example, police officers fired dozens of bullets into a pick-up truck that did not even resemble Dorner’s vehicle. The truck was actually carrying a woman and her elderly mother as they delivered newspapers, and one of the victims was shot twice in the back. Another, similar incident occurred shortly after that, although the victim in that case was not hit by the barrage of bullets.
Whether there will be official investigations into the myriad controversies and questions surrounding Dorner’s death remains unclear at this point. Incredibly, however, the murderous ex-cop garnered a significant amount of public support online during his rampage as he mowed down innocent victims. Facebook pages supporting the cop-killer, for instance, portrayed him as some sort of folk hero for standing up against what they perceive as racism and corruption in the LAPD.
As The New American documented early on, Dorner’s rambling manifesto was filled with praise for Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and even some establishment Republicans such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The document also called for more infringements on the right to keep and bear arms while celebrating mainstream media figures pushing statist causes the alleged cop-killer believed in.
The national media followed Dorner’s murderous rampage closely, with the story dominating the headlines for days. However, in stark contrast to other killing sprees in recent years, where the establishment press tried desperately to link murderers to political causes it opposes, almost nothing was written about this particular suspect’s strongly pro-government views. Now that Dorner is dead, most of the world will probably never know his views.
Several prominent figures are hoping to have his allegations of LAPD racism and corruption investigated. Others are seeking an investigation into whether or not Dorner was deliberately executed by police. Whether anything will come of those efforts, however, remains to be seen.
Photo of hotel surveillance footage of Christopher Dorner from Jan. 28: AP Images
Alex Newman is a correspondent for The New American, covering economics, politics, and more. He can be reached at
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