Key to the bloody, climactic day that police believe ultimately ended their search for fugitive ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner was a dramatic confrontation with a team of game wardens who spotted the alleged revenge killer on a mountain road.
The two wardens – sworn officers who carry weapons – spied Dorner in a stolen white pickup truck shortly after a report came in that the alleged killer might have carjacked the vehicle.
The sighting was brief, but the wardens were sure they had seen Dorner, said Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The department had brought in wardens from throughout the region to help search for Dorner in the snowy mountains around Big Bear Lake where he had last been seen.
“They were certain as law enforcement can be without actually putting cuffs on him and fingperprinting him,” Hughan said.
The driver of the truck fired six rounds into the pursuing Fish and Wildlife vehicle.
One of the wardens fired back, emptying 20 rounds of ammunition into the white pickup.
“For a few seconds, it was the wild, wild west,” the warden told Hughan.
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The fugitive "put one round in the windshield, one round in the driver's door window, one round in the light in the cabin and one round in the seat pillar ten inches from the head of the game warden," Hughan said, all while traveling 30 miles-per-hour.
Seconds later, the truck veered to the left, disabled, and a man believed to be Dorner ran off into the woods.
The entire exchange, Hughan said, took just three minutes.
But it started a sequence of events that led to a second gunfight with the man believed to be Dorner, and ultimately to a gunshot and inferno in the cabin where he had barricaded himself.
On Wednesday, investigators dug through rubble in the cabin, avoiding any remaining hotspots as they attempted to identify the charred human remains found within.
"I am grateful and lucky to be alive," the warden told Hughan Tuesday night.