By Jason Sickles, Yahoo! | The Lookout
[Updated at 8:31 p.m. PT]
In a press conference, LAPD spokesman Andy Smith denied multiple reports claiming that the body of fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner was found inside a burned out cabin near California’s Big Bear Mountain. Smith said the smoldering cabin is still “simply too hot” for authorities to investigate the scene and said it could still take several days for authorities to fully investigate the scene and identify Dorner’s body, if it is in fact found on the scene.
“That was a mistake. If someone said it was all-clear two hours ago, that was a mistake,” Smith told reporters, adding that the LAPD planned to hold another press conference Wednesday morning.
Earlier reports from multiple sources claimed that the body of shooting suspect Christopher Dorner, the subject of a week-long manhunt, had been removed from a cabin destroyed by fire this afternoon. The Associated Press, ABC News, CNN and Los Angeles Times are reporting the news, with an AP alert specifically stating that a “charred body found in rubble of burned cabin in Southern California mountains,” was reported to be that of Dorner.
CNN also reported earlier that law enforcement officials are currently conducting a forensic exam on the body in an attempt to confirm that the body belongs to Dorner. But Smith said none of those earlier reports are accurate.
Police believe the disgruntled ex-LAPD officer barricaded himself in the mountain home following a deadly shootout with officers earlier Tuesday.
A single gunshot was heard from inside the cabin just before the fire broke out around 4:30 p.m. PT, a law enforcement source who requested anonymity told the AP.
Fox News and CBS News both earlier reported that Dorner died inside the charred cabin.
Officials were waiting for the fire to burn out before approaching the ruins to search for a body, the AP reported.
The L.A. Times gave this account on how the final moments unfolded:
According to a law enforcement source, police had broken down windows, pumped in tear gas and blasted a loud speaker urging Dorner to surrender. When they got no response, police deployed a vehicle to rip down the walls of the cabin “one by one, like peeling an onion,” a law enforcement official said.
By the time they got to the last wall, authorities heard a single gunshot, the source said. Then flames began to spread through the structure, and gunshots, probably set off by the fire, were heard.
[From earlier reports]
The cabin where former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner is believed to be barricaded is now on fire.
Media at the scene reported hearing numerous rounds of ammunition going off about the time the fire became fully involved. It is unknown if police and the suspect exchanged shots or if the rounds were ignited by the blaze.
It is also not known if Dorner is still inside, but according to police radio traffic, officers at the scene seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach.
Thick black smoke and flames can been seen coming from the mountain cabin, but tactical units are requesting that fire personnel stay back.
Overheard from authorities on the police radio channel:
“Hold until we start mop up with fire.”
“Still not ready for fire. There’s a lot of smoldering.”
“More ammo going off.”
“Fire doing quite well. I’m going to let it go.”
Police want to let the fire burn through the basement as a precaution before entering. A firefighter raised in that residence is on the scene, and tells officers that the basement is 12 x 15 feet. The ceiling of the basement is wood.
Police captain to officers surrounding the house: “If you see something catching on fire that’s not supposed to be you let me know, otherwise let it go.”
Police now asking if the firefighter familiar with the house knows if there would be any reason for ammunition to be stored in the home. Firefighter has not been in the residence in years so he doesn’t know.
Kyle Martin, whose family owns the burning cabin, just told CNN that it was not being rented at the time. He said it does have electricity, but no internet, phone or cable.
Police are assembling a 10-man team to keep an eye on the garage.
NBC News reports that the second officer wounded during the shootout earlier Tuesday is in serious condition, but is expected to survive.
[From earlier events]
Police said Dorner fled inside the cabin after after reportedly killing one deputy and wounding another during a gun battle earlier this afternoon.
Authorities have the cabin surrounded near Big Bear Lake, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Dozens of SWAT officers and armored vehicles have been sent to the scene.
“Enough is enough. It is time to turn yourself in,” LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said during a televised press conference. “It’s time to end the bloodshed.”
Cmdr. Smith said Tuesday’s shootout between Dorner and officer occurred about 12:30 p.m. when deputies responded to a call about a vehicle have been stolen by a man resembling the wanted ex-officer.
According to the L.A. Times:
“Hundreds of rounds” were exchanged in about half an hour during the gun battle between fugitive former police officer Christopher Dorner and law enforcement officers Tuesday afternoon, sources said.
Days ago, Dorner broke into a cabin off Route 38, a source said. He allegedly tied up the couple inside and held them hostage until Tuesday morning when he left. It is unclear whether Dorner stole their vehicle or another, but Fish and Wildlife officers knew to be on the lookout for a white pickup truck when they spotted Dorner driving one and attempted to stop him, the source said.
A spokeswoman with the San Bernardino sheriff’s office said the two wounded deputies were transported from the area via air ambulance. Their conditions were not immediately known.
During the shootout, police said Dorner apparently fled into a nearby cabin.
“Suspect is pinned down next to the shooting scene,” a San Bernardino dispatcher could be heard saying over a police radio channel. “Marshals have a positive ID and visual of the suspect.”
A 3-mile-wide perimeter has been set up by police, and authorities were asking news helicopters not to broadcast live video of the cabin.
[SLIDESHOW: Manhunt for former LAPD officer]
“We don’t want to tip our hand,” Cmdr. Smith said.
Residents in the area were being told to stay inside and lock their doors. The California Highway Patrol has closed all highways near the scene.
“People should stay away from that area. It is not safe right now,” a police spokeswoman told KTLA-TV.
Dorner has been on the run for seven days. He is accused of killing three people–including one police officer–last week.
The 33-year-old former naval and LAPD officer turned triple-murder suspect, has been at the center of a massive manhunt stretching from the Bernardino Mountains—where his burned-out pickup truck was found last week—to the Mexican border.
In a manifesto posted online earlier this month, Dorner promised “unconventional and asymmetrical warfare” against the LAPD, which fired him in 2008. On Saturday, actor Charlie Sheen—who was mentioned in Dorner’s online manifesto—released a video pleading with the accused killer to call him.
On Saturday, police conducted a door-to-door search for Dorner in Big Bear Lake, Calif., but snowfall hampered their efforts in the surrounding mountains.
On Sunday in Los Angeles, an increased police presence was seen at the Grammy Awards, which some thought Dorner might target. In Northridge, Calif., a home improvement store was evacuated after a report of a possible Dorner sighting, hours after the LAPD announced a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest.
“This is the largest local reward ever offered, to our knowledge,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said at a news conference. “This is an act of domestic terrorism. This is a man who has targeted those that we entrust to protect the public. His actions cannot go unanswered.”
Yahoo News staffers Dylan Stableford, Liz Goodwin and Eric Pfeiffer contributed to this report.