California Fugitive Is Believed to Have Died in Blaze
by IAN LOVETT, JENNIFER MEDINA, MICHAEL WILSON and FERNANDA SANTOS
BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. — After a shootout and a forest standoff on Tuesday afternoon, Christopher J. Dorner, the former Los Angeles police officer sought in the region's largest manhunt, was apparently killed in a cabin as it burned down around him, but officials said they needed time to sort through the rubble.
At 11 p.m., the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office released a statement, saying that “charred human remains” had been located inside the burned-out cabin. Though the remains were not identified as those of Mr. Dorner — “identification will be attempted through forensic means,” the statement said — there is little doubt they are his.
“We believe he was still inside the cabin” when it went up in flames, Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, said earlier during a news conference in Angelus Oaks, six miles from the scene. Mr. Dorner, a self-described survivalist believed to be heavily armed, had holed up in the rental cabin hours earlier and engaged deputies in a shootout, killing one deputy and wounding a second.
The dramatic chain of events, which included hostage taking and a chase in vehicles and on foot, played out in the sun-dappled, snowy San Bernardino Mountains.
It was unclear how the fire at the cabin began, but the authorities said that no one escaped the blaze and that Mr. Dorner was believed to be alone inside.
Officers, shouting orders through loudspeakers for Mr. Dorner to surrender, heard what they believed to be a single gunshot from within.
News organization widely reported that Mr. Dorner's body was found in the building, but a spokesman from the Los Angeles Police Department said on Tuesday evening that they did not have the body.
Even after officers retrieve the body, it could take days or weeks to identify it, officials said. Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County sheriff, said in an evening news conference, “We believe that he was still inside the cabin,” but that it was not safe to enter because of the heat.
Both the suspect and the police were believed to have used smoke grenades during the shootout. The two deputies who were shot were airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center; the second deputy's condition was not disclosed on Tuesday evening, but he was expected to recover.
The standoff drew scores of police officers and sheriff's deputies from surrounding jurisdictions, led by the San Bernardino Sheriff-Coroner Department. The tension heightened as the day wore on, and local schools were locked down.
Law enforcement agencies ordered news helicopters to keep their distance for the protection of the officers involved. The sheriff's online feed to the department's radio scanner was shut down for the same reason. Reporters were asked to stop posting updates on Twitter.
The police believed that Mr. Dorner was monitoring the news, and Cmdr. Andrew Smith, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department, addressed him directly at a news briefing on Tuesday afternoon.
“Enough is enough,” Commander Smith said. “It's time to stop the bloodshed and let this incident be over.”
Officers had been searching the Big Bear area since last week, when Mr. Dorner's burning truck was found on a forest road. Mr. Dorner, a former reservist in the Navy, had boasted about his sharpshooting and survival abilities.
Days ago, Mr. Dorner apparently broke into a couple's home on Club View Drive, the authorities said on Tuesday. The street is nestled beside a golf course in a community called Moonridge near Big Bear Lake. Mr. Dorner reportedly tied them up as his hostages and stayed out of sight until Tuesday afternoon.
Shortly after 12 p.m. Tuesday, the authorities received a report of a stolen white pickup truck and a description that fit Mr. Dorner's. Soon after, he was spotted driving a white 2005 Dodge pickup by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The suspect was driving toward the officer in the opposite lane, said Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the department. The officer recognized Mr. Dorner, stepped out of his vehicle and fired at the suspect, who returned fire. Neither was injured, Mr. Hughan said.
The officer and a colleague chased the man, who crashed the pickup, fired at them and ran into the cabin.
More officers arrived and surrounded the cabin, and more gunfire was exchanged. Mr. Dorner fired out a window of the cabin before trying to flee from the rear, throwing a smoke bomb to hide his escape, but police gunfire drove him back inside, The Los Angeles Times reported. The newspaper also reported that deputies used smoke bombs to cover their evacuation of the fallen deputies.
At the news briefing, Commander Smith said the Los Angeles Police Department had officers ready to be deployed from the San Bernardino airport, several miles from the cabin. He said the San Bernardino County sheriff had not yet asked for help from the Los Angeles force. Commander Smith would not say how many officers were at the airport because they did not want to “tip their hand” in case Mr. Dorner was watching.
The standoff came while officers investigated over 1,000 clues and tips about Mr. Dorner's whereabouts, past and present, Commander Smith said.
The standoff capped a week of sightings, shootings and false leads in the hunt for Mr. Dorner, who was dismissed from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2008 after investigators concluded that he had lied in his claim that a training officer had assaulted a homeless person.
In a 6,000-word manifesto that Mr. Dorner published on his Facebook page, he complained that he had been dismissed wrongfully. He cited racism and corruption in the department and threatened several police officials and their families.
Los Angeles police officers guarded 50 families around the clock, taking up a significant amount of department resources.
On Feb. 3, the police in Irvine, Calif., discovered the bodies of Monica Quan, 28, and her boyfriend, Keith Lawrence, 27, in their car in a parking garage near a condominium complex where they lived. Ms. Quan was the daughter of a retired Los Angeles police captain who played a role in the disciplinary process that led to Mr. Dorner's dismissal.
Last Wednesday at 10:30 p.m., the police believe, Mr. Dorner tried to hijack a boat at a marina in Point Loma, a community in San Diego. The man mentioned to the boat's captain that he intended to take the craft to Mexico. But the boat became disabled as he was trying to steal it, so he fled instead.
On Thursday at 1:45 a.m., two officers in a protection detail for one of the people threatened by name in the manifesto confronted a man they believe was Mr. Dorner near the person's home in Corona. Shots were exchanged, and one of the officers had a graze wound to his head. The gunman fled.
A short while later, two police officers in Riverside, Calif., were sitting in their patrol car at a stoplight when they were attacked by a man they believe was Mr. Dorner.
One of the officers was killed, the other injured. Again, the gunman fled.
At 5:20 the same morning, Los Angeles officers mistakenly shot and wounded two women delivering newspapers, thinking the pickup truck they were driving matched the description of the one Mr. Dorner was driving.
Late that afternoon, the police found the suspect's truck in the San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear Lake. The hunt then focused on that area, which has only a handful of access roads.
North Korea defiant over nuclear tests as Obama promises swift action
President likely to address 'highly provocative' actions in state of the union speech following emergency UN meeting
by Chris McGreal
Barack Obama has vowed to take "swift and credible action" over North Korea's "highly provocative" nuclear test which appeared to bring Pyongyang closer to producing a viable weapon.
The United Nations security council held an emergency meeting in New York on Tuesday morning to "strongly condemn" Pyongyang's most powerful underground blast to date as a "clear threat to international peace and security".
The council called the test a "grave violation" of earlier resolutions and warned that it will strengthen sanctions just three weeks after the latest wave took effect.
But North Korea remained defiant, describing the test as a "preliminary measure" and threatening "stronger" actions unless the US ends its "hostility".
Experts said the explosion appeared to be an important step toward developing a nuclear bomb capable of fitting to a long range missile.
South Korea raised the level of its military alert.
Pyongyang's defiance was expected to force its way in to Obama's state of the union speech on Tuesday because the president was planning to make a call for a cut to nuclear weapons stockpiles worldwide. But while Obama's frustration was evident from the strength of his denunciation, it is less clear what the US can do about North Korea's actions.
"This is a highly provocative act that, following its December 12 ballistic missile launch, undermines regional stability," said Obama. "North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to US national security and to international peace."
North Korea described the latest nuclear test as a "first response" aimed at defending itself from the "US threats".
"This nuclear test was our preliminary measure, for which we exercised our most restraint," an unidentified North Korean spokesman told the state news agency. "If the United States continues to come out with hostility and complicates the situation, we will be forced to take stronger, second and third responses in consecutive steps."
The ministry did not say what those steps might be.
Obama said the nuclear test offered only an illusion of greater security.
"These provocations do not make North Korea more secure. Far from achieving its stated goal of becoming a strong and prosperous nation, North Korea has instead increasingly isolated and impoverished its people through its ill-advised pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery," he said.
"The danger posed by North Korea's threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community. The United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies."
The test was condemned by other countries including China, which is best placed to pressure the North Korean government with measures such as cutting oil supplies but has so far backed only limited sanctions.
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, called Pyongyang's actions "deplorable" in ignoring international opinion. The British foreign secretary, William Hague, described the nuclear test as a "clear and grave violation of the relevant UN security council resolutions" and said that North Korea faced further isolation.
The North Korean test may have been timed to coincide with Obama's state of the union speech in which he planned to call for a sharp drawdown in the number of nuclear warheads, proposing to drop the US arsenal from about 1,700 to 1,000.
It was to be one element in a speech expected to define Obama's second term agenda and announce a number of initiatives, including plans to more than halve the 66,000 troops the US has in Afghanistan by this time next year as the Pentagon prepares for the final pullout of combat forces by the end of 2014.
The president is expected to strongly press comprehensive immigration reform and to renew his call for an assault weapons ban in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
The White House, along with congressional Democrats, has invited dozens of victims of gun crime or their relatives to attend the speech. Among Michelle Obama's guests will be the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, 15, who participated in the president's inaugural parade last month and was then killed in a shooting in Chicago.
Among others attending the speech will be former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was badly wounded in a shooting in Tucson two years ago.
To counter the move by supporters of more gun control, a Texas congressman, Steve Stockman, has invited rock star Ted Nugent to attend. Nugent is an ardent supporter of the National Rifle Association, and last year said he would either be "dead or in jail" if Obama were re-elected.
Obama is also expected to tick boxes on the need to combat climate change and in favour of clean energy, although there appears little chance of the president getting major environmental legislation through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
But the White House has indicated that the core of the president's speech will focus on strategies to strengthen the American middle class as a means of bolstering a slowly improving economy. Obama told Democratic party members of the House on Thursday that job creation remains at the heart of that.
Ohio agencies request airspace use for drones
ODOT, colleges among petitioners to FAA
by JIM PROVANCE
COLUMBUS — Even as Congress raises questions about the military application of unmanned drones and the targeting of U.S. citizens, the Federal Aviation Administration is opening airspace to more civilian use of the technology.
In Ohio, the Department of Transportation, Medina County sheriff, Ohio University in Athens, Sinclair Community College in Dayton, and Lorain County Community College have all either won FAA authorization or are seeking it.
So have the University of Michigan and Northwestern Michigan College.
The lengthy list of past and new applicants was obtained from the FAA via a records request by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit defender of civil liberties.
The FAA confirmed Tuesday that it made the list available to the group, but it doesn't expect to publicly release it until Thursday.
Medina County Sheriff Tom Miller said he understands the concerns the public may have.
“I don't want something flying over my head while I'm having a barbecue, but if my grandson or granddaughter goes missing, I want every technology available to find them as quickly as we can,” he said. “I think the application is for the three or four kids or Alzheimer's patients who go missing.”
The sheriff's office has been working with a local company, Vista UAS LLC, that is developing the technology.
The office is training two officers to serve as virtual pilots for the small, remote-controlled, model helicopter-like device equipped with a zoom camera and infrared imager. It's unarmed and far from the airplane-like drones the United States has used for strategic military targets.
A recently passed bill requires the FAA to develop rules to expand civilian-operated, unmanned drone access to domestic airspace by September, 2015.
ODOT's roughly $15,000 Styrofoam craft looks nothing like Medina's helicopter.
Resembling a boomerang or a bat, it has a wing span of about 2½ feet and weighs about a pound. It has a point-and-shoot camera underneath it that aims straight down.
ODOT has received FAA approval to fly it for aerial topographical imaging associated with construction projects, something the department does now using a piloted aircraft. The battery-operated craft would fly about 200 feet above ground.
“We will pay an employee an hourly wage to operate a model as opposed to fueling up a manned airplane to fly 10,000 feet in the air,” ODOT spokesman Steve Faulkner said.
The American Civil Liberties Union believes that clear regulations about the use of drones should be adopted and court warrants should be obtained before they can be used for surveillance.
“We're worried about this being a slippery slope to drones looking into everything,” said Steve Miller, chairman of the Northwest Ohio ACLU. “The FAA is predicting 30,000 drones by the end of the decade.”
Sinclair Community College has FAA approval for restricted airspace over Springfield-Beckley Airport to test its unmanned SPEAR in conjunction with manufacturer Co-Operative Engineering Services, Inc.
“We believe it will be a multi-billion-dollar industry in coming years, and multi-billion-dollar industries require a trained work force,” Sinclair spokesman Adam Murka said.
Ohio University's Avionics Engineering Center has FAA airspace authority as part of its research to ensure that an unmanned aircraft can sense and avoid other aircraft.
“We are trying to make the technology safer for a lot of civilian applications that are overlooked by the general public,” center spokesman Colleen Carow said. “They can be used to assess disaster sites, fly in areas that are unsafe or impossible for humans to reach such as a plane crash in the mountains, and monitor crops….”
Lorain County Community College has incorporated the technology into its aerospace program with students building and testing their own rockets and unmanned aerial crafts. So far test flights have been limited to inside the school's fieldhouse, but it has asked for FAA airspace authorization.
“Our interest right now is on investigative things — infrastructure, thermal checks on buildings to check heat loss, precision agriculture to identify different croplands that are producing more than others,” professor Marlin Linger said.