Husband and wife cabin owners said they were held captive by a man believed to be a fugitive ex-police officer, refuting initial reports that the couple bound inside a Big Bear cabin on Tuesday was mother-daughter housekeepers.
Karen and Jim Reynolds own the Mountain Vista Resort on Clubview Drive, they told media at a news conference in Big Bear Wednesday evening.
When they entered the cabin on Tuesday, the couple happened upon a man who looked like Christopher Dorner – wanted in connection with at least three revenge-style slayings.
"I thought we were dead," Jim said. "Really, it was pretty scary."
Karen said she tried to run away when she recognized the man matching Dorner’s description. With his gun drawn, the man yelled at the pair to stay calm.
"We saw so many pictures of him," Karen said. "And actually, while he talked to me, he said, ‘I know you’ve been seeing the news. I know you know who I am.'"
Karen said the man was "very, very calm" as he "very methodically" bound her and her husband’s hands and legs, pulled pillowcases over their heads and stuffed towels in their mouths.
"You really could tell that he was professionally trained," she said.
Investigators said Dorner used a 11,400-word manifesto published on his Facebook page to recount his 2008 firing from the force and declare his innocence.
In the document, he said attacks against law enforcement officials and their families would stop when the LAPD "declared his innocence."
Karen and Jim said the man they met expressed the same desire.
"He wanted to clear his name," Jim said. "He said that quite a few times. He said, 'I don’t have a problem with you, I just want to clear my name.'"
"I didn’t believe him," he added "I thought he was going to kill us."
Married 36 years, the Reynolds have owned the cabin for 12 years. They said they didn’t see any indication that someone was inside, but the man apparently told them he had been watching the couple.
“He said that we are very hard workers, we’re good people. He talked about how he could see Jim working on the snow,” Karen said.
While they were tied up, the couple could hear the man stuffing something into a bag. He then left cabin and, according to law enforcement, commandeered the couple’s 2011 Nissan Rogue.
He later crashed the Nissan and carjacked a white pickup truck, authorities said. A shootout, standoff and inferno inside a separate cabin followed the double car thefts.
After about 15 minutes in captivity, Karen said she was able to roll onto her knees, scoot over to the bed and get onto her feet. She hopped into the living room, where she noticed her cellphone was on the coffee table – a discovery she attributed to the man who tied her up.
"I sat down and was able to scoot around and work with it and call 911," she said.
Officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department on Tuesday told media that the captives were mother-daughter housekeepers.
Karen speculated that the misinformation may have come from her 911 call.
Worried that cleaners were inside the cabin and possibly in danger, Karen said she asked the 911 dispatcher to call their cellphones to make sure they were safe.
It turns out, cleaners were in the cabin next door while the situation unfolded, Karen said.
There were guests in the cabin on Monday, Karen said, but they were checked out by Tuesday morning. She found carrots and milk in the refrigerator but was not sure if they belonged to the guests or the man believed to be Dorner.