Big Bear-Area Shootout “Was Like a War Zone”: Sheriff

San Bernardino County's sheriff has revealed new details in a fatal shootout and cabin-burning Tuesday in Big Bear, including that the detective slain in a violent confrontation with a man believed to be a fugitive ex-police officer was the father of two young children.

Detective Jeremiah MacKay, 35, was killed after exchanging gunfire with a man believed to be Christopher Dorner, a former LAPD officer wanted in connection with at least three slayings.

"I will tell you that the deputy sheriffs that responded to this active shooting scene yesterday are absolutely true heroes," San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

A 15-year veteran of the force, MacKay is survived by a wife and two children – a 7-year-old daughter and a 4-month-old son, McMahon said.

MacKay (pictured below) was a member of the Irish Emerald Society, an organization of U.S. police officers and firefighters of Irish descent, the detective's friend told NBC4.

Every year around this time, the organization hosts a memorial fund for slain officers. This year's event is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday and is expected to honor MacKay, who was the department's official bagpipe player. He often performed at the funerals of fallen officers.

"Jeremiah initiated that event as a fundraiser for our society and he was very passionate about raising money for families of fallen officers," said Deputy Ken Jamieson. "So, it is ironic."


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Posted on YouTube Wednesday night, this video shows MacKay playing bagpipes during a 2009 Emerald Society St. Patrick's Day celebration.

Deputy Alex Collins was also struck during the gunfight. He is still being treated at a hospital after two surgeries, McMahon said. His wife told McMahon that he is in good spirits and is expected to make a full recovery after several additional surgeries.

McMahon said authorities "believe the investigation is over at this point," though he cautioned that remains found in a burned cabin have not been identified as those of Dorner.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the LAPD's officers union, released a statement extending condolences to the familes and friends of those killed and wounded, allegedly by Dorner.

"We are grateful that it appears that this reign of terror is over," said LAPPL PResident Tyler Izen in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "Christopher Dorner intended to wreak havoc and terrorize Los Angeles and all of law enforcement who protect our communities."

A dramatic string of events near Big Bear on Tuesday led law enforcement officials to believe that Dorner – alleged to have begun a revenge-motivated shooting spree on Feb. 3 with the slayings of a newly engaged couple in Irvine – was in the area and firing at officers.

"It was like a war zone and our deputies continued to go into that area," McMahon said, applauding the efforts of law enforcement who responded to the scene in the unincorporated community of Angelus Oaks.

The gunfight with the man believed to be Dorner began after a California Department of Fish and Wildlife warden noticed a driver matching the fugitive's description driving on Highway 38 at about 12:45 p.m. Tuesday near Glass Road.

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Investigators believe the man held two people captive after the pair surprised him when they entered the vacation home where he had been hiding.

Initially, it was reported that the two captives were mother-daughter housekeepers. Mountain Vista Resort owners Karen and Jim Reynolds on Wednedsay night told media that they were tied up by the man before he stole their SUV.

The man commandeered their purple Nissan Rogue and was spotted by a CDFW warden who noticed the driver matched Dorner's description, according to a CDFW spokesman.

The driver crashed the Nissan and then carjacked a white pickup truck, authorities said. Additional wardens and San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies responded to reports of a stolen vehicle in the area.

The driver first opened fire through the pickup truck's window, narrowly missing responding CDFW wardens. Then, in a separate shootout after the driver abandoned the truck and ran into a vacation cabin, he struck MacKay and Collins, officials said.

A man believed to be Dorner never came out of the structure, which was destroyed in a fire.

Authorities would not say how the fire started, but McMahon on Wednesday said police "did not intentionally burn down that cabin."

He said officers tossed tear gas canisters into the cabin. Among those barrels were "pyrotechnic-type canisters," known as burners, that "produce a lot of heat," McMahon said.

Several walls of the cabin were knocked down with an armored vehicle, then authorities heard a single gunshot from inside, a law enforcement source told NBC4. The cabins are southwest of Big Bear, where Dorner's burned-out vehicle was discovered on Feb. 7 after he allegedly shot and killed a Riverside police officer.

Investigators are working to identify charred human remains found in the rubble of the cabin, which discovered late Tuesday. It was not known Wednesday afternoon if those remains belonged to Dorner.

"We believe that this investigation is over at this point," McMahon said.

The LAPD will continue protecting law enforcement officers and their families that were named as possible targets in a manifesto apparently written by Dorner. Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the department will consider easing the heightened security when it has confirmation that the remains found in the cabin belong to Dorner.

NOTE: NBC4 incorrectly reported that the pair held captive inside a Big Bear cabin were mother-daughter housekeepers. A couple who own the Mountain Vista Resort on Club View Drive on Wednesday evening told media that they were tied up by the man before he stole their SUV.

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