BIG BEAR LAKE — Police scoured mountain peaks for days, using everything from bloodhounds to helicopters equipped with high-tech search equipment in their manhunt for a revenge-seeking ex-cop. They had no idea he was so close, possibly holed up in a vacation cabin across the street from their command post.
It was there that Christopher Dorner may have taken refuge last Thursday, four days after beginning a deadly rampage that claimed four lives.
The search ended Tuesday when a man believed to be Dorner bolted from hiding, stole two cars, barricaded himself in another vacant cabin miles away and mounted a last stand in a furious shootout in which he killed one sheriff's deputy and wounded another before the building erupted in flames.
He never emerged from the ruins, and hours later a charred body was found in the basement of the burned cabin along with a wallet and personal items, including a California driver's license with the name Christopher Dorner, an official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
The coroner's office is studying the remains to positively determine the identity. It was not clear how the cabin caught fire.
Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Andrew Neiman said Wednesday the agency had returned to normal patrol operations but about a dozen of the more than 50 protective details guarding possible Dorner targets would remain in place until the remains are positively identified.
"This really is not a celebration," he said.
Neiman would not answer any questions regarding what occurred in the mountains of San Bernardino County the previous day, saying it was that jurisdiction's investigation.
LAPD officers used the Internet to monitor radio chatter during the shootout.
"It was horrifying to listen to that firefight and to hear those words. 'Officer down' is the most gut-wrenching experience that you can have as a police officer," Neiman said.
Dorner, 33, had said in a lengthy rant that police believe he posted on Facebook last week that he expected to die in one final, violent confrontation with police, and if it was him in the cabin that's what happened.
The apparent end came in the same mountain range where his trail went cold six days earlier, when his burning pickup truck — with guns and camping gear inside — was abandoned with a broken axle on a fire road in San Bernardino National Forest near the ski resort town of Big Bear Lake.
His footprints led away from the truck and vanished on frozen soil. Deputies searched door-to-door in the city of Big Bear Lake and then, in a blinding snowstorm, SWAT teams focused on hundreds of vacant cabins in the forest outside of town.
With no sign of him and few leads, police offered a $1 million reward to bring him to justice and end a "reign of terror" that had more than 50 families of targeted Los Angeles police officers under round-the-clock protection after he threatened to bring "warfare" to the LAPD, officers and their kin.