BIG BEAR LAKE — The manhunt for a former Los Angeles police officer suspected of going on a killing spree converged Tuesday on a mountain cabin where authorities believe he barricaded himself inside, engaged in a shootout that killed a deputy and then never emerged as the home went up in flames.
A single gunshot was heard from within, and a law enforcement official told The Associated Press late Tuesday that officials had found a charred body.
If the body of Christopher Dorner is found inside, as authorities suspect, the search for the most wanted man in America over the last week would have ended the way he had expected — death, with the police pursuing him. He is believed to have killed at least four people.
Thousands of officers had been on the hunt for the former Navy reservist since police said he launched a campaign to exact revenge against the Los Angeles Police Department for his firing. They say he threatened to bring "warfare" to officers and their families, spreading fear and setting off a search for him across the Southwest and Mexico.
"Enough is enough. It's time for you to turn yourself in. It's time to stop the bloodshed," LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said at a news conference held outside police headquarters in Los Angeles, a starkly different atmosphere than last week when Dorner was on the loose and officials briefed the news media under heavy security in an underground hallway.
A short time after Smith spoke Tuesday, smoke began to rise from the cabin in the snow-covered woods near Big Bear Lake, a resort town about 80 miles east of Los Angeles. Flames then engulfed the building — images that were broadcast on live television around the world. TV helicopters showed the fire burning freely with no apparent effort to extinguish it.
"We have reason to believe that it is him," said San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cynthia Bachman, adding that she didn't know how the fire started. She noted there was gunfire between the person in the cabin and officers around the home before the blaze began.
There were conflicting reports about whether a body had been found inside shortly after the fire, with both the Los Angeles and San Bernardino authorities disputing the find in separate news conferences. But an official later told the AP a body had been seen in the rubble. The official requested anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
Until Tuesday, authorities didn't know whether Dorner was still near Big Bear Lake, where they found his burned-out pickup last week.
It's believed that Dorner broke into a house near where his truck was found and tied two people up.
About mid-day Tuesday, wardens from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife spotted a purple Nissan car that had been reported stolen, department spokesman Lt. Patrick Foy said. The wardens recognized the driver as someone matching Dorner's description.
They pursued the driver and briefly lost him when he turned onto a side road. Three other wardens in two vehicles turned onto the road a short time later, and were searching for the car when they saw a white pickup truck driving toward them erratically and at a high rate of speed.
Wardens got a close look at the driver and realized it was Dorner, who rolled down his window and opened fire, Foy said.