As the hunt for Christopher Dorner, the fugitive ex-LAPD officer behind a string of killings, grew frustrating, local officials decided to try to jump-start the investigation by offering a reward – a really big reward.
But now that Dorner is believed to be dead, it is not at all clear who – if anyone at all – will get the $1 million-plus offered to tipsters in a well-publicized news conference last weekend.
More than 20 jurisdications are involved in the reward and will jointly decide if anyone qualifies for the bounty, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said in a joint statement released Thursday afternoon.
"Now that the search for Christopher Dorner appears to have concluded, we are addressing the issue of the $1 million reward," the statement read.
"More than 20 jurisdictions and entities are involved in this reward, so all of them will be coming together to collectively determine whether any individual or individuals qualify for it. Our personal hope is that the reward will be distributed, but we must follow the rules and respect the procedures of each entity."
When Dorner surfaced on Tuesday, he tied up a couple in their Big Bear home and carjacked the owner of a Boy Scout camp, Both the couple and he camp owner called police – calls that led to a shootout and ultimately the demise of a man believed to be Dorner in a vacation cabin that burned to the ground.
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On Thursday, officials scrambled to figure out how to deal with the question of who should be in charge of the reward, and how much of it should be paid.
Villaraigosa, speaking to NBC4’s Conan Nolan on Thursday, said he thought those tipsters should be rewarded – even though Dorner is no longer alive to prosecute.
But it was not immediately clear how the situation would play out.
“This is such a unique situation,” said Vicki Curry, a spokeswoman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “We’re trying to hammer out the details with all of the donors as we speak.”
More than 20 donors offered to contribute money toward the $1 million reward offered by the city for Dorner’s capture and conviction, including the union representing LAPD officers, the Dodgers and USC, where one of Dorner’s victims worked.
Another $200,000 was offered by the Los Angeles City Council and the LA County Board of Supervisors.
Each agency, Curry said, may have its own ideas on whether the tips phoned in on Tuesday warrant payment – and how much should go to each person.
Some jurisdictions – the city of Los Angeles among them – say they typically only pay a reward if information from the public leads to both the arrest and the conviction of the person who is wanted. That could mean that if the fugitive dies, as Dorner did, the reward might not be paid.
“If the suspect is dead, it will affect the amount of reward money an individual receives,” said LAPD spokesman Richard French. “It’s a case-by-case basis.”
Some law enforcement agencies don't pay rewards at all if the fugitive dies, specifying instead that the tip must lead to both an arrest and a conviction.
But others say they frequently do pay if the tipster’s information leads to the suspect – whether or not the person dies.
“Different entities will have different criteria for awarding the money,” said Laura Eimiller, spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles.
The FBI, she said, places money offered for a reward into its budget, to be paid out once a fugitive is apprehended.
Very often, she said, the money is divided among several people whose information may have contributed to the capture.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Some of the wording in this story was updated for clarity on Feb. 19, 2013.