Seven months after he was shot multiple times in a deadly gun battle in the final hours of a manhunt for fugitive ex-officer Christopher Dorner, a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputy was back on the job Monday.
Deputy Alex Collins suffered gunshot wounds to the face, left forearm and left knee during the gunbattle with Dorner at a cabin in Big Bear. Collins' load-bearing vest saved him from what likely would have been a fatal shot to the upper chest.
In the months since the shooting, Collins underwent 20 surgeries and worked with a team of doctors who put him back together. And he couldn’t wait to get back to his job.
“As soon as I woke up in the hospital, all I could think of was getting back to work and getting back here to Big Bear,” Collins said.
Rogue ex-Los Angeles police officer Dorner was discovered holed up in a cabin in Angeles Oaks on Feb. 12 after fleeing from nearby Big Bear. The nine-day Southern California search for Dorner began after he was identified as a suspect in the shooting deaths of a former Los Angeles Police Department captain's daughter and her boyfriend.
Randal Quan represented Dorner during an LAPD Board of Rights hearing, which ended with a ruling against Dorner at the time of his dismissal from the department. Police said Dorner implicated himself in the couple's shooting deaths in a "manifesto" that detailed his revenge plot involving current and former law enforcement agents.
After a fatal confrontation with Riverside police, the Dorner manhunt led to the mountains east of Los Angeles, where Dorner hid for nearly a week. Law enforcement officers, including Collins and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Detective Jeremiah MacKay, zeroed in on the cabin after several witnesses reported seeing a man matching Dorner's description.
MacKay, a father of two young children, was killed in the shootout. Collins called it the worst day of his life.
"I think about him every day," Collins said of his slain colleague. "You never want to forget him and what he did for this department."
As he returns to duty, Collins recalls that the last time he left for work, he almost didn’t make it back for his wife and children.
“Today I just took the extra time hug ‘em tighter and told them I love them,” Collins said. “I think she’s going to be OK. She knows I’m going to be in the office all day. She’s not too worried.”
Dorner, 33, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Feb. 12 as officers surrounded the Big Bear-area cabin in which he was holed up, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. The cabin then caught fire.
In an online manifesto, Dorner vowed violence against law enforcement agents and their families until his “name was cleared.” He was fired from the force in 2008, accused of falsely accusing a fellow officer of kicking a suspect.
An LAPD report in June ruled that Dorner was justifiably fired from the force.
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