US & Canada

Christopher Dorner was 'on mission' before gun battle

Rick Heltebrake speaks to the media 13 February 2013
Image caption Rick Heltebrake, who was carjacked by Christopher Dorner on Tuesday

A man carjacked at gunpoint by a murderous former Los Angeles policeman has described coming face to face with America's most wanted man.

Rick Heltebrake said Christopher Dorner was "almost professional" as he ordered him out of his pick-up truck.

Afterwards, Dorner was in a shoot-out with police that ended with the fugitive assumed dead in a cabin fire, 80 miles (128km) east of Los Angeles.

Police have denied razing the cabin on purpose during the siege.

A local CBS broadcaster and CNN aired an audio recording of apparent police radio communications during the shoot-out. Voices purported to be police were heard saying: "Burn it down".

Pyrotechnic canisters

"We did not intentionally burn down that cabin to get Mr Dorner out,'' San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said on Wednesday.

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Media captionJim and Karen Reynolds: "He said he wouldn't kill us"

He told reporters that officials used the term "burners" to described pyrotechnic tear canisters, which generate "a lot of heat".

"We had introduced those canisters into the residence and a fire erupted," he said.

Police have not formally identified charred remains found in the cabin as Dorner, but have ended their manhunt, standing down the LAPD from high alert.

Mr Heltebrake was sitting in his pick-up truck on Tuesday when he said Dorner emerged from a grove of trees and pointed a large assault-style rifle at him.

"I don't want to hurt you," Mr Heltebrake recalled Dorner saying. "Start walking and take your dog."

The former cop, wanted for three murders in southern California, was in camouflage from head to toe and wearing a bulletproof vest packed with ammunition, he said.

But Mr Heltebrake did not feel as though Dorner wanted to hurt him.

"He wasn't wild-eyed, just almost professional,'' he said. "He was on a mission. There were other people down the road that were part of his agenda."

Couple 'tied up'

Mr Heltebrake called police when he heard gunfire soon after, then hid behind a tree.

The pick-up truck was the second car Dorner reportedly stole on Tuesday, after ditching another vehicle he seized outside a cabin where he had been hiding, just a half-mile from the police command centre.

Image caption Christopher Dorner wrote in a manifesto that he had been wrongfully sacked by LAPD

A couple told a news conference on Wednesday that they happened upon Dorner when they entered the cabin on Tuesday. They said Dorner had a gun but assured them they would not be harmed.

The couple said he tied their arms and put pillowcases over their heads before fleeing in their Nissan.

Mrs Reynolds said she had managed to get her mobile phone and call police.

Authorities could not immediately verify the story, and other reports said the fugitive was found by two women cleaning the house.

Authorities were originally looking for the stolen Nissan when Dorner is said to have driven at them, gun blazing, in Mr Heltebrake's pick-up truck.

The fugitive then fled to another cabin where the shoot-out with San Bernardino police began.

During the gun battle, sheriff's deputy Jeremiah MacKay was killed, and another deputy, Alexander Collins, was wounded.

MacKay, a detective who had been with the department for 15 years, had a wife, a seven-year-old daughter and a four-month-old son, officials said.

The authorities said Dorner earlier killed the daughter of a police captain who had represented him at a disciplinary hearing, and her fiance. He was also accused of killing another policeman and injuring two others.


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