The morning of 2/12, a big African-American man in Big Bear stole a purple Nissan SUV, owned by Jay of Jay’s Tree Trimming Service. (Lt Foy, Fish and Wildlife thought this car belonged to two maids.) Around 12:45, while following two school buses, the vehicle passed a sheriff’s car and a Fish and Wildlife car. What is interesting is the difference in stories. Fish and Wildlife Public information officer Andrew Hughan, who was kind enough to draw a diagram of the action, had the suspect driving towards Big Bear, but Sacramento Fish and Wildlife’s Lieutenant Patrick Foy had him going down Highway 38 away from Big Bear. After this reporter pointed out the discrepancy they solidified behind Lieutenant Foy’s version. According to Public Information Officer Andrew Hughan of the Fish and Wildlife Department, the purple SUV passed the school buses as did the officer’s cars.
PIO Hughan stated that after driving past Glass Road, the officers realized they had lost him and turned back. The SUV crashed and the suspect reportedly commandeered a silvery–white truck owned by Rick Heltebrake, an onsite ranger for the Boy Scout campground. Reportedly the truck was taken at rifle-point. According to most versions, the suspect drove the truck away from Highway 38 and then turned around.
Meanwhile, two other Fish and Wildlife cars came from the East and turned on Glass Road. According to Officer Hughan and Lieutenant Patrick Foy of the Fish and Wildlife Department in Sacramento, the game warden in the first of the second set F&W cars believed he visually identified Dorner as he passed him in a car. The second F&W car was fired upon and hit (with about 5 or more rounds).
According to Hughan, Dorner turned East on 38 towards Big Bear. He stated that 38 and Glass curve towards each other. In his version, one of the F&W officers got out of his car and ran across the area towards where 38 (E) comes close to Glass and fired 15 to 20 rounds, emptying his clip. According to Lt. Foy, the F&W officer ran across an area where Glass did a hairpin turn and shot at the truck while it was on Glass Road. A while later Rick’s truck crashed.
Brett Berens (son of the owner of The Oaks Restaurant on Highay 38) said the truck was flooded with bullets and went down a 20 to 30 foot cliff and crashed. According to PIO Hughan, this all took place in 3 to 4 minutes from when the truck was spotted.
The story about the truck crashing on Glass Road would put the truck closer to Seven Oaks, where the cabin was supposedly located. The Sheriff’s Department, which finished up the chase and engaged in the reported gun battle, was conveniently leaving all the press work to F&W, which only had the first part of the story.
According to Hughan and Foy, after the truck crashed the suspect took off on foot. There was reportedly shooting and the suspect took refuge in a cabin/community center that was perhaps 3000 square feet in size on the ground floor and appeared to have a second floor. 95% of the cabins are empty this time of year according to Tom Berens, owner of the Oaks Restaurant. He pointed out that most people have these cabins as vacation homes.
According to Lt. Foy, the suspect shot and killed a Sheriff’s deputy on his way to the cabin and wounded another while shooting from inside. They were taken by ambulance down the mountain to a hospital. The wounded officer is expected to be fine.
Brett Berens stated that he first saw four San Bernardino Sherriff’s cars speeding up the mountain at about 12:40 P.M. and then a steady stream, including SWAT cars and cars from about every jurisdiction in the area. By about 1:15, the road was closed past The Oaks Restaurant to the press and all others and by that time perhaps 180 law enforcement vehicles had passed. The Oaks Restaurant is about five to six miles west from the cabin.
The average response of news crews at the restaurant to whether it was Chris Dorner was that he was big, black and armed and so of course it was Dorner. According to Tom Berens, 80 to 90% of residents of the area own guns and the majority have shotguns. So, apparently the identifying part is big and black, a description that matches millions of Americans. An unknown number of black residents and visitors (big vacation area) could have guns while not being Chris Dorner.
With the police even shooting women they mistake for Dorner, maybe some non-Dorner African-American individuals with the “usual Angelus Oaks shotgun” could have been frightened into firing, but that is speculation. And while we were sitting at The Oaks Restaurant, a two big black guys showed up, one with Cal Trans and another an officer with guns. Did they get the wrong big black guy with a gun?
Coming from the East, the roadblock was much further from the scene with the blocked off area being about 23 miles of Highway 38. So the closest place for the press to hang out was at The Oaks Restaurant.
The only reporter that got close to the cabin was reportedly from K-Cal and followed a sheriff’s vehicle. He was sent back quickly, though, getting brief footage of some kind of shooting, no footage of Dorner.
The closest helicopter footage during the event was from about six miles away. Two residents of the area near the cabin, Gabe Valencia and his sister Christy were not present when the events occurred. They had spoken to other residents. Nobody from the area witnessed the goings on or heard the gunshots. But they knew Rick, who reported that the guy who stole his truck was big and black (same generalized description). At the restaurant, nobody heard any gunshots or smelled smoke but apparently only the K-Cal video has sound of gunshots though others show the cabin on fire.
The police shot gas canisters into the cabin, perhaps. The cabin caught fire and burned. Remains were found. But whose? One newsman postulated that a resident could have been shot while Dorner escaped. But to the police, it is believed that this ends the episode of Chris Dorner.
Overnight the press did their own press releases while waiting to learn more but were still blocked off from the area, while Tom and Brett kept their restaurant open all night, serving coffee, free of charge, to all who entered. Though this writer doesn’t drink coffee, the report is that the coffee was very good.
In the mist of all this, a famous Congresswoman commented: “Remember Fahrenheit 451”. To those who don’t recall, Guy Montag escaped but the authorities had to show a conclusion and did a fake police chase complete with a shootout and killing of the supposed Montag, not the real one, but good enough for the television audience.
And if Dorner is dead, who is left to tell the tale of the two manifestos? The version released by most media outlets was inconsistent with the original manifesto and clearly written by a different person than the individual who wrote the original. But was the original even written by Dorner? If Dorner is dead, the public is left to make up its own theories.
Was Dorner even at Big Bear? Did he really shoot any of the individuals he is accused of shooting? The police mistook two women for him last week. Maybe it was two women who did all the shootings. Maybe it was two women in the cabin – if the officers up north have similar eyesight to the officers in Torrance.
Under the Constitution of the United States, a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. This leaves Dorner legally innocent. But what is the truth and will we ever know?
In discussion over last weekend about the rather odd nature of the circumstances, it was postulated by an intellectual that Dorner died long ago, that there would be a shoot-out at the OK Corral in Big Bear and the remains would show up to verify he had died. The remains are a little charred. It remains to be seen whether they are Dorner’s. Rumor has it that Dorner (Montag?) made it to Mexico.
Lt. Foy was a really nice guy, but Fish and Wildlife deferred to the missing Sheriff’s department for the details and maybe they didn’t want to account for them. The CHP claimed they were just working the road closures. Nobody’s being particularly accountable. But isn’t it interesting that the effort all along was to shoot his mouth closed (from the shooting of the women in Torrance) to the incident at Big Bear? What was it they didn’t want anyone to hear him say?
Maybe Sam, the newshound, ready to head to the cabin and sniff out what really happened, will discover the full story.
*All photos taken by Ruth Hull
Ruth Hull is an activist and writer whose career has included work as a criminal defense attorney, a licensed private investigator, and an educator.