Christopher Dorner: A Look at the Man Behind the Mayhem
” … Awards and Decorations: National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service … “
By Sandy Mazza, Mariecar Mendoza and Tracy Manzer
San Jose Mercury News, February 7, 2013
The final straw for Christopher Jordan Dorner grew out of a relatively minor arrest outside San Pedro’s DoubleTree hotel nearly five years ago. Dorner and his training officer were called to the well-manicured hotel because a scruffy, angry, mentally ill man would not leave. Together, the Harbor Division officers grappled with the man in a bush until he was shot with a Taser gun and submitted. But the pair differed in their versions of what happened that morning.
The discrepancy became an obsession for Dorner, who claimed his training officer brutally and unnecessarily kicked the man in the collarbone and face. His intense feelings about that incident are the core of the lengthy, stream-of-consciousness manifesto he wrote to explain why he embarked on a killing spree – complete with a 40-person hit list.
In the 14-page manifesto (written in the parlance of a police report), Dorner directly addresses “America,” and describes himself as a heroic figure rendered helpless by a series of racist attacks that began when he was a first-grade student at Norwalk Christian School in Norwalk, when another student called him a racial slur.
The school closed down Thursday during the massive manhunt for Dorner. The disgraced former officer wrote that the first of a series of injustices that defined his life happened at the Norwalk school, where he says he was the only “black kid.” He said he was repeatedly disciplined for fighting throughout elementary school, but it was only because he was responding to racist name-calling.
“A fellow student called me a (racial epithet),” he wrote of his first fight. “My response was swift and non-lethal. I struck him fast and hard with a punch an (sic) kick. He then for some unknown reason swatted me for striking (the student). How dare you swat me for standing up for my rights for demanding that I be treated as an equal human being. That day I made a life decision that I will not tolerate racial derogatory terms spoken to me.”
Dorner also attended from John F. Kennedy High School in La Palma in 1994 and 1995, and then went on to graduate from Cypress High School in 1997, according to La Palma Police Chief Eric R. Nunez.
Though Dorner saw himself as a victim with a superior level of integrity, his police supervisors believed he was bullying fellow officers, according to official documents.
Name: Christopher Jordan Dorner
Home of Record: La Palma, CA
Date Commissioned: 3 July 2002
Loss Date: 1 Feb 2013
Rank/Date of Rank: Lieutenant/1 August 2006
Service Dates/Assignments: Various Reserve Units Navy Reserve NAS Fallon, NV Navy Mobilization Processing Site (NMPS) San Diego, CA Coastal Riverine Group Two Det Bahrain Coastal Riverine Group One, San Diego, CA NMPS San Diego, CA Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit
Navy Personnel Command Various Aviation Training Units
Awards and Decorations National Defense Service Medal Iraq Campaign Medal Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Sea Service Deployment Medal Navy Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon Armed Forces Reserve Medal w/ M Device Rifle Marksman Ribbon Pistol Expert Medal
After the incident outside the DoubleTree in 2008, Dorner’s accusation against his training officer was proved false. In a series of hearings, hotel bellhops and officers testified that the man taken into custody had not been kicked. Dorner was terminated for falsifying that police report.
The firing fed Dorner’s long-festering anger at a society that he describes as racist and brutal in its treatment of him throughout his life. As for his own character, Dorner says “honor, courage, and commitment” are traits embedded in his DNA.
On Sunday, Dorner allegedly killed the daughter of a police captain who represented Dorner in the hearing over the DoubleTree incident as well as her fiance. On Thursday, he killed a Riverside police officer and wounded two other officers.
His violent spree is in direct contradiction to the man who at least one friend called “well-spoken, educated, rational,” and who can be seen smiling widely in numerous online photos.
On his online Facebook page, Dorner says he is from La Palma, and his manifesto lists a series of cities where he has lived, including Cerritos, Pico Rivera, Thousand Oaks, Yorba Linda as well as towns in Utah, Florida, Nevada and Oklahoma.
Sports Illustrated’s online college football roster archive lists Dorner as a running back at Southern Utah University from 1999 to 2000.
He also briefly attended California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks for one semester, in fall 1997, university spokeswoman Karin Grennan confirmed.
Jan. 31 Fired LAPD officer Christopher Dorner posts about his manifesto on his Facebook account. The post image was blacked out and captions on all posted photos removed Thursday after Dorner became a suspect in several killings, including a police officer, in several Southern California cities. | Photos from Christoper Dorner’s Facebook account
Sunday, Feb. 3 Monica Quan, 28, and Keith Lawrence, 27, are found shot to death in their car at an Irvine parking structure. Quan, an assistant women’s basketball coach at California State University, Fullerton, was the daughter of a former Los Angeles police captain who represented Dorner in disciplinary hearings that resulted in his dismissal.
Monday, Feb. 4 Some of Dorner’s belongings are found in a trash bin in the San Diego-area community of National City.
Friends, alumni and faculty have a candlelight vigil at Walnut High School on Monday night for Quan, a member of the school’s Hall of Fame.
Tuesday, Feb. 5 Dorner checks into a hotel near the Point Loma Navy base in San Diego.
Wednesday, Feb. 6 Irvine police announce they are looking for Dorner as a suspect in the killings of Quan and Lawrence. They describe him as armed and dangerous. Police say he implicated himself in the killings in a manifesto posted on Facebook.
10:30 p.m.: A man matching Dorner’s description tries to steal a 47-foot boat from a San Diego marina but the engine won’t start. An 81-year-old man on the boat is tied up but not hurt.
Thursday, Feb. 7 1:30 a.m.: In Corona, located in Riverside County, two LAPD officers assigned to protect a person named in the manifesto chase a vehicle they believe is Dorner’s. During a shootout, one officer is grazed in the forehead. The gunman flees. A short time later, a gunman believed to be Dorner ambushes two Riverside police officers who had stopped at a red light during a routine patrol. One officer is killed and the other critically injured.
2:30 a.m.: A passer-by finds a wallet with law enforcement badge and a picture ID of Dorner on a street near San Diego International Airport.
Three hours later: LAPD officers guarding a manifesto target in Torrance open fire on a truck they mistakenly believe to be Dorner’s. Two women are wounded. A short time later, Torrance police are involved in a second shooting involving a different truck they also mistake for Dorner’s. Nobody is hurt.
Thursday morning: The vehicle description issued in the pursuit of Dorner is modified. Authorities say he was last seen driving a gray Nissan Titan with a ski rack on top. California license plate number: 8D83987.
8 a.m.: In Long Beach, police shut down the San Diego (405) Freeway at Bellflower Boulevard after receiving a report of a vehicle matching the description of Dorner’s vehicle. Patrol and SWAT officers were on the scene, but it turned out to be a false alarm.
9 a.m.: The Navy shuts down its Point Loma base in San Diego after an active-duty service member reports seeing Dorner near a hotel on base. Military officials said Dorner had indeed checked into the hotel Tuesday but left the next day. The Navy lifted the lockdown about midday after dozens of police officers swarmed the base and failed to find him.
10 a.m.: Authorities conduct a press conference updating details of the search, still under way.
10:30 a.m.: Norwalk Christian School closed and parents were instructed to pick up their children from the campus. The campus was completely cleared by noon, with about 10 officers remaining at the campus.
Noon: Resorts, Bear Mountain and Snow Valley evacuated and put on lockdown. Nearby schools were also locked down, and authorities asked local residentsto stay inside their homes.
1:30 p.m.: Reports come in that law enforcement agencies have fanned out across the San Bernardino Mountains — specifically Big Bear Lake, Running Springs, Arrowbear and Twin Peaks — in search of Dorner, saying they believed he could possibly be holed up in mountain communities. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the Calfornia Highway Patrol deployed helicopters to help in the search. Meanwhile, residents of those communities were evacuated.
3:30 p.m.: Authorities reveal a burning truck was found earlier in the day on a forestry road near Big Bear Lake that matched the description of Dorner’s vehicle. San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon says ‘(Dorner) could be anywhere.’
5:30 p.m.: Authorities conduct a press conference updating details of the search, still under way in Big Bear Lake, where the forecast calls for snow showers.
8:15 p.m.: Authorities say they are aware of a possible connection between Dorner and the Arrowbear area but decline to provide further details.
9 p.m.: Authorities conduct a press conference advising Big Bear Lake residents to remain in their homes and they continued their search for Dorner. Ski resorts, business and schools in the area were expected to resume normally scheduled hours on Friday.
Thursday night:Manhunt for Dorner continues in the San Bernardino Mountains, where authorities had established roadblocks at several points leading out of the mountain communities. Helicopters were heard circling and activity continued at the command post set up in Big Bear Lake. Barring further developments, authorities said the next announcements would come at a press conference slated for 9 a.m. Friday. — Staff reports, Associated Press
Grennan, however, had few details about Dorner’s attendance other than to say that he completed the semester. She added that while reports were that Dorner may have tried out for the university’s football team, “it looks like he quit” before the first game of the season.
Southern Utah University spokesman Dean O’Driscoll confirmed Thursday that Dorner attended the university from 1997 to 2001, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in psychology. The university is located about 250 miles south of Salt Lake City in Cedar City, Utah.
Dorner joined the U.S. Navy in 2002, achieving the rank of lieutenant in 2006, according to military records. He served as a reservist in Nevada and San Diego, and was a member of the Coastal Riverine Group deployed to Bahrain from November 2006 to April 2007. He was stationed at the Navy Mobilization Processing Site in San Diego in 2007 and the Navy Air Station Fallon reserve unit in Nevada in 2009. He left Navy service officially on Feb. 1.
During his service, he was awarded the Iraqi Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Rifle Marksman Ribbon, Pistol Expert Medal, among other commendations.
Long Beach police Sgt. Clint Grimes said Thursday he was stunned when heard Dorner’s name on the radio and realized he and Dorner had served in the Navy together.
“I was laying down (at home) and taking a nap and listening to KFI and that name was like a worm going into my ear,” Grimes said. “When they said `Point Loma,’ that’s when it hit me. … I pulled up his picture and that’s when I knew it was him for sure.”
The two men had overlapping deployments to Kuwait in 2007.
Though they were not close friends, Grimes said he remembered Dorner was excited when he first joined the Los Angeles Police Department and frequently talked to Grimes about his dreams and aspirations as a new police officer.
“I never knew him not to be smiling,” he said.
Grimes said Dorner is very bright. Dorner’s unit used high-tech sonar equipment to find small boats that could be a threat to naval vessels in port.
“They’re not looking for a stupid guy, here,” Grimes said.
Dorner was also accustomed to military structure, and would insist on following protocol at all times.
“I would say, `Call me Clint,’ and he would say, `Yes sir.'”
Dorner graduated from the Los Angeles Police Academy in 2006 and joined LAPD, but left for a 13-month military deployment that year. He returned to the LAPD in July 2007. That year, his wife filed for divorce, according to court records. The following year, he lost his job.
A Los Angeles police officer who knew Dorner when he was with Harbor Division for a year in 2009 called on him to turn himself in.
“He needs to turn himself in and end this drama,” he said.
The officer, who asked that his name not be used, said: “Obviously he’s suffering from a mental illness. This is a terrible incident that he’s caused.”
Dorner was far from a meathead despite being a football player and a memorable college buddy, said James Usera of his fellow Southern Utah University Thunderbird.
“He was well-spoken, educated, rational. I didn’t think he was moody or showed anything that would indicate he had mental health issues,” Usera said. “My friendship with Mr. Dorner was extremely positive.”
Usera, now a lawyer in Salem, Ore., spent all day Thursday recalling his two-year friendship with Dorner.
A self-proclaimed “white boy” from Alaska, Usera befriended Dorner on the football field in rural Utah in the spring of 1999 on the Thunderbirds scout team.
“I was a fullback he was a tailback and we had a lot of fun doing that,” Usera said. “We got a lot of compliments from coaches being hard workers.”
And “hard worker” was certainly one of the phrases that described the Christopher Dorner he knew more than a decade ago, Usera said.
In 2008, Usera recalls a phone call from Dorner “out of the blue” that lasted about 15 minutes. The call didn’t seem odd, despite being the first time he’d heard from Dorner in seven years.
Usera said that while they both vented about work, Dorner didn’t call for legal advice or even hint at any major issues with LAPD.
“He did mention some employee grievances he had with the LAPD, and obviously seemed concerned about the employment issue, but maybe `concerned’ is too strong of a word because it just sounded like typical stress from his job,” Usera said.
Usera was described by Dorner as “the most cynical/blatant/politically incorrect friend a man can have” who “never sugarcoated the truth.” In his 114-word rant to Usera, he ended with: “I love you bro.”
But Usera was just one of the people Dorner specifically named in his more than 11,000-word manifesto that lamented on his three-year career with the LAPD and the corruption and racism he believed permeated the organization.
“Mr. Dorner was from Southern California and I was from Alaska, so being at SUU, which is set in a rural, predominantly white Mormon town, one of the things that connected us was our shock to the social demographics of the place,” Usera said. “It was different to what we were used to and so we could relate to each other.”
Usera recalled Dorner complaining about instances of discrimination, but nothing that alarmed Usera during their college years.
“He is a person who believed that racism is alive and well in the United States, not just in Utah,” Usera said, “but while it is something he mentioned on some occasions, I never saw him get irate about it.”
Usera said that while he knows people are trying to pinpoint exactly what turned Dorner into a suspected killer, he can’t help with that.
“People are looking for predictors, but I just never recognized anything that would indicate he was unstable in any fashion,” Usera said. “He seemed normal, and I know that’s not a great descriptor, but that was who he was to me.”
Usera said Thursday afternoon that he hadn’t read Dorner’s manifesto in full but from what he’s been told by reporters it is all shocking.
“It seems very out of character. The individual I knew was a good guy and was upstanding,” he said.
Staff writers Donna Littlejohn, Larry Altman and Kelsey Duckett contributed to this report.