Less than 24 hours after fugitive Christopher Dorner was presumed killed inside in the burned ruins of a Big Bear cabin, news media and social media users have a new hunt for answers:
How, exactly, did that fire start?
The charred body of a man believed to be Dorner — the fugitive ex-cop accused of killing two law enforcement officers and two civilians — was pulled from the ruins late Tuesday. Police had surrounded the cabin for hours after he exchanged hundreds of rounds of gunfire with law enforcement.
“We did not intentionally burn down that cabin to get Mr. Dorner out,” San Bernardino Sheriff John McMahon said in a news conference late Wednesday afternoon.
His deputies lobbed pyrotechnic tear gas into the cabin, and it erupted in flames, he said. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
A series of YouTube videos claiming to include dispatches of officers talking at the scene have fueled speculation that the police could have intentionally set the fire, knowing that an accused cop killer was barricaded inside.
A video stream from KCAL9 carried live video from the Big Bear area cabin where authorities believe Dorner was hiding, hours after killing a deputy:
“Burn that f—ing house down!” a frantic officers says repeatedly in the YouTube video. The video’s authenticity has not been confirmed by law enforcement.
Spokesmen for the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, the lead agency in the Big Bear area, and for the Los Angeles Police Department have said they don’t know how the fire started.
A second video, this one called “Cops torch cabin where Christopher Dorner was held up,” had at least 69,000 views by Wednesday afternoon.
The video contains 5 minutes of audio of what appears to be police talking over police scanners about tearing into doors and windows of the cabin as they prepare to move in:
First man: “Alright, Steve. We’re going to go, we’re going to go forward with the plan, with the, with the burn.”
Second man: “Copy.”
First man: “Like we talked about.”
Man: “Seven burners burner deployed, and we have a fire.”
The term “burner” could refer to the slang police term for “tear gas” and may refer to “BurnSafe” containers, and the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that incendiary tear gas may have been used.
That video’s veracity has also not been independently confirmed.
After the fire started, a law enforcement officer said: “Fire doing quite well. I’m going to let it go,” Yahoo News reported, citing a reporter monitoring San Bernardino sheriff radios.
That report goes on to note that police would not send firemen inside if they believe an armed man was still inside.
The Desert Sun is trying to reach San Bernardino area authorities to comment on the videos — and we’re probably not the only ones.
In an Atlantic article called “Chris Dorner May Be Dead, but the LAPD Fire Still Burns,” Alexander Abad-Santos writes:
Questions remain, though, from a state and a nation rapt by the chase for a man as intriguing as he was violent, as half-believable as he appears to have been half-mad: Did the cops start the deadly fire, or did Dorner? Can cops burn another cop alive just because he killed their own? And why would there have been a plan to smoke him out if they had him trapped?
See all Dorner-related coverage: http://www.mydesert.com/dorner