Sheriffs Deny Intentionally Setting Dorner Cabin Fire

The San Bernadino Sheriffs office today denied they intentionally burned down the cabin where Christopher Dorner died.

"We did not intentionally burn down that cabin to get Mr. Dorner out," Sheriff John McMahon said at an afternoon news conference.

He said deputies initially fired conventional "cold" tear gas into the cabin in Seven Oaks, near Big Bear Lake, then switched to "pyrotechnic-type" rounds" known as "burners."

Since I was updating live,I was listening to the police scanner feeds (until they went down.) It was confusing since I didn't understand all the terminology, but I did hear the things on this video of the scanner communications. [More...]

This reddit thread captured a lot and led me to alternate scanner sites (again, until they went down.) My impression was they had a pre-set plan (I remember hearing one officer ask another if he knew about it and was okay with it), and that they intentionally set the fire and wanted the fire department to stay in the staging area rather than go in and put it out. This was all around the time they also said (not in order): the fire was going in the front and he might come out the back; they had deployed the burners; ammo was exploding; and they heard a shot go off inside the cabin.

"Burners" are a more incendiary type of tear gas canister. Here's more of the scanner talk. Seems to me they intentionally set the fire.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Why am I not inclined to believe (5.00 / 5) (#1)
    by Peter G on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 10:20:27 PM EST
    the Sheriff?

    Perhaps for the same reason I (5.00 / 4) (#2)
    by caseyOR on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 10:28:42 PM EST
    am not inclined to believe the Sheriff?

    I Don't Know What's Worse.... (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 02:29:34 PM EST
    ...them intentionally starting the place on fire, or not knowing the collateral effects of the equipment they use.

    Actually, it's easy for me, if they are tossing in grenades without realizing they will start fires, that is infinitely worse than trying to smoke out a lone bad guy who is firing at them.

    What I don't get is why they would lie about it.


    They would lie about it (none / 0) (#30)
    by sj on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 10:49:15 AM EST
    ...because sane people recoil in horror at the thought of setting a fire and burning someone to death.  It's a crime.  For a civilian, we are talking arson and murder.

    So It's OK to Shoot Him... (none / 0) (#31)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 12:42:07 PM EST
    ...but not OK to try and smoke him out ?

    Come on, you comparisons are silly, arson, burning him alive, murder, really ?

    I am not a fan of the cops and I am not a cruel person, but in this particular case, I agree with what they did.  He could have came out, had he burned alive, it would have been his choice.  They didn't pour gas on the cabin, a tear gas container caught something on fire.  Something the man in the cabin might have aided for all we know.

    Ideally, given the choice, I would have like to see him arrested, but according to him, that was not going to happen, and there ain't a whole lot of options left, escape of death.

    You know he killed himself before he burned, right ?


    ::shrug:: (none / 0) (#32)
    by sj on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 01:09:15 PM EST
    I don't believe for a second that his pursuers were unaware that he had no intention being taken alive.  I don't know about you, but I would "prefer" to be shot rather than burned alive.  

    I'm still occasionally haunted by those images of people jumping out of the windows at the WTC because what was behind  them was so much worse.  I would be shocked if he didn't take an alternative to being burned alive.  He had the tools to prevent such a fate.

    You can call me silly if you want.  But you ask why they lied and continue to lie.  You may not not like my perceptions, so tell me: have you found a reason that like better?

    You may not see any big deal in burning a building to the ground while someone is inside -- in fact, I think that would be consistent with your other comments [not that you appear to be heartless, but more that you sometimes seem to be deficient in empathy].  But they still seem to be dissembling, don't they?


    tear gas or from the gas line being torn open as the machine tore the walls of the cabin down or from some other reason. Regardless, he was given a choice of exiting the cabin or perishing within it. He chose to perish within it by committing suicide by shooting himself.

    Oh, I agree with you (none / 0) (#34)
    by sj on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 03:09:03 PM EST
    But that wasn't the question Scott was asking.  He was wondering why they ("they" being the sheriff's office) would lie.

    I see, no worries. (none / 0) (#35)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 03:31:10 PM EST
    To serve and protect (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by Dadler on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 11:22:43 PM EST
    And seek furious vengeance.

    Above the law.

    Fiddling while it burns has many meanings, it seems.

    To me, if sheriffs department (5.00 / 5) (#4)
    by oculus on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 11:54:24 PM EST
    Knew therebwere two ways out of the cabin it was within their discretion, given the danger  the occupant had posed and was posing to law enforcement officers and others at the scene, for law enforcement to force the suspect to come out of the cabin. The fire in the cabin did not cause the suspect's death. He decided to kill himself.

    I bleive the sheriff, all right... (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by lokkju on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 01:50:59 AM EST
    I do beleive the sheriff is telling the truth - you just need to read the entire quote, including the final qualifier:
    "We did not intentionally burn down that cabin to get Mr. Dorner out". (emphasis added)

    I have no doubt at this point that they did burn the cabin intentionally.  I have very little doubt that the intent was not to get Dorner out of the cabin.  That makes the sheriff's statement, taken as a whole, true.

    What's missing is what he left unsaid: We did it to kill him. duh.

    I put together a meme for this: http://memecrunch.com/meme/FIK8/wedidittokillhim

    The word 'down' is the real (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by ruffian on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 03:46:19 AM EST
    qualifier. They seem to have certainly started a fire on purpose in order to get him to leave the cabin. They can say they did not mean to burn the cabin to the ground.

    I on't Monday morning quarterback here. (5.00 / 6) (#6)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 02:58:57 AM EST
    Christopher Dorner caused a lot of mayhem over the last ten days and could be conclusively tied to the shooting deaths of four people and the wounding of three others, two very seriously. Two of the victims were summarily executed in cold blood after being stalked.

    I think the San Bernardino Sheriff's deputies were trying to flush Dorner out of that cabin yesterday, and it was not their intent to see him be burned alive.

    As far as I'm concerned, Dorner's no innocent victim here. I'm very sorry that he didn't surrender and was not taken into custody and charged with murder and put on trial, but ultimately, he courted his own fate through his own deliberate actions.

    Rather, my thoughts and sympathies tonight are reserved for CSU-Fullerton assistant basketball coach Monica Quan; her fiance Keith Lawrence, a USC  public safety officer; Riverside PD police officer Michael Crain; and San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputy Jeremiah McKay, along with their families and friends.


    Well said. (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 08:42:53 AM EST
    Wow, some manhunt (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by ruffian on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 03:53:44 AM EST
    It was also revealed that during the manhunt deputies had knocked on the door of the cabin, which was built in the 1920s, but moved on when they got no answer.

    Note to self: when hiding from the police, don't answer the door.

    All snark aside, I don't understand the strategy. What is the point of knocking on all the doors if the search ends when no one answers? I can understand not wanting to go in when there may be a dangerous fugitive inside, but in that case why approach the door at all? This just sounds like a cursory search to me.

    Given what seemed to be Dorner's (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Anne on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 06:38:15 AM EST
    plan, given that he clearly had no problem killing people, it would seem to me that in conducting a manhunt, it would have been prudent for law enforcement to ascertain the status/safety of the homeowner/resident before moving on.

    I don't know - maybe those knocking on doors really didn't want to be the ones to find him - kind of like calling someone on the phone and hanging up if the person doesn't pick up after the first ring.

    I guess law enforcement was going to get criticized no matter what they did; not being in law enforcement, not being part of what's been going on for the last couple weeks, it'd be easy enough for me, sitting here at my desk in the safety of my office, to opine on what they did right or wrong, but, really - what do I know?

    Overall, there's sure been a lot of violent death in the last year or so, a lot of families broken, futures ended, lives going sideways; it's beginning to wear on me more than a little.  Especially since I'm pretty sure there isn't a lot that can or will be done about it.  

    I know, it's like the wave of publicity about the shark attacks a couple years ago - it's not that there were more attacks, it's that there was more publicity.  Maybe this is the case with gun violence, but even if it's all just a case of hearing about it more, we should still be appalled by what the numbers represent.  As others have pointed out, it seems like it's time for this to be treated as a public health issue - which it kind of is, really.

    We just can't keep saying that, oh, well, we all have the right to own guns, so there's nothing we can do about it.


    Do you wonder if Dorner (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 09:26:02 AM EST
    figured well in advance that there could be a situation in which he was being tear-gassed, and that's why he filled up his scuba tank?

    Think that was more (none / 0) (#18)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 11:45:53 AM EST
    because of his initial boat escape attempt.

    Maybe so. fwiw, (none / 0) (#27)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 04:08:12 PM EST
    I just googled around and TMZ is saying they have info from 'sources' that:
    TMZ has learned ... alleged cop killer Christopher Dorner purchased a large scuba tank not for diving ... but to create his own air supply in case he was tear-gassed, which would allow him to ambush cops ... at least that is the main operating theory among law enforcement working on the case.

    Seems Like... (none / 0) (#28)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 04:44:34 PM EST
    ...gas mask at the local military surplus would have been adequate.  This is something he would know, surely he trained with tear gas.

    Doesn't seem likely, scuba tanks are pains, they weight about 40/50 lbs with air, and in a firefight, have a tank with 3000+ lbs/sq2 anywhere in the area would not be a good idea.


    Makes sense to me. (none / 0) (#29)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 05:05:46 PM EST
    Looks like... (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by kdog on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 10:45:58 AM EST
    the 1 million dollar reward payout may not be forthcoming to the dime-droppers...city saved by the fine print.

    Pretty slick...they damn well knew the guy wasn't being taken alive no how.  

    Let's wit and see what happens. (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by oculus on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 11:11:18 AM EST
    To be clear (none / 0) (#16)
    by CoralGables on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 11:15:11 AM EST
    You have switched allegiances and are now rooting for the dime-dropper here?

    Not at all... (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by kdog on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 11:33:08 AM EST
    just find it funny the state might welch on the reward via the fine print. Since it wasn't a "dead or alive" bounty they had to know they were never gonna have to pay...typical law enforcement chicanery.  It is illegal for us to lie to them, but they can deceive us all day long and twice on Sunday.

    As for the dime-droppers, could be instant karma.


    considering what he did to them (none / 0) (#20)
    by nyjets on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 11:55:16 AM EST
    He tied them up, kept them hostage, and stole their car not to mention terrified he was going to kill them, they had every right to call the police.

    Are you really (none / 0) (#21)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 11:55:48 AM EST
    telling me you wouldn't have reported the guy? I mean he took the maid and her daughter hostage and you would have been all "naw its cool man fight the power!"

    That's asinine.


    Depends... (none / 0) (#22)
    by kdog on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 12:02:01 PM EST
    if I witnessed a civilian in immediate danger I'd probably break my golden rule...there is always an exception.

    If I saw him doing the backstroke to Baja no way I'd drop a dime....dealing with the authorities in any way shape or form is generally to be avoided like the plague.


    i am sure (none / 0) (#23)
    by nyjets on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 12:05:27 PM EST
    I am sure that the guys past victims and future victims appreciate your 'golden rule'

    Not that it matters (none / 0) (#24)
    by CoralGables on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 12:22:55 PM EST
    but the reports say it was a husband and wife that were taken hostage for about 15 minutes and that Dorner was very calm and reassuring to them that he wasn't going to hurt them, saying he only wanted to clear his name. Dorner then took their car and the wife made the 911 call soon after.

    him being arrested even, never mind tried and convicted, were slim to none.

    What happened to Dorner (none / 0) (#10)
    by TeresaInPa on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 07:52:49 AM EST
    was a matter of self defense and defense of others on the part of the cops.  Dorner said he would never be taken alive and IMO he chose to die there.

    I agree with you here (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 08:48:25 AM EST
    He was firing a 50 caliber sniper rifle at them.  He had disabled the engine of a car with it, as well as killing one of them that I know of so far.  Just like I don't think 30 soldiers must die to subdue one Al Qaeda operative, I don't think 30 police officers have to die just to keep the community safe from the likes of Dorner and trying to take him alive.

    I think that law enforcement has done some horrible things and made some horrible decisions in this country at times.  Police officers are not cannon fodder though and they are each individuals, they cannot as a group be made responsible for what a few have done.  And I can't hate anyone enough that I demand several of the lives symbolically sacrificed on some alter of my own making trying to take a killer using lethal force alive.


    This, (none / 0) (#19)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 11:54:09 AM EST
    do I think they should have forced him back inside if he was leaving to surrender? Of course not, but I don't think they had any obligation to enter the cabin and try and rescue him given his propensity for shooting law enforcement officers.