The Man Behind the Manhunt: Few Warning Signs in Alleged L.A. Shooter’s Past

As police widen their search for Christopher Dorner, those who knew him say the former cop and Navy reservist was nothing but friendly

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PATRICK FALLON / REUTERS

Investigators from Irvine and Riverside police carry out bags of evidence after serving a search warrant at the home of Christopher Dorner's mother in La Palma, Calif., on Feb. 8, 2013

On a residential street in the Orange County suburb of La Palma, federal marshals and police officers on Friday descended on the suburban home of Christopher Jordan Dorner’s mother. The heavy weaponry and bulletproof vests used to serve a search warrant left no doubt: these officers were on high alert, looking for a man armed, dangerous and wanted throughout Southern California. But at the same time, residents of the orderly neighborhood were painting a much different picture of the suspect, remembering him as friendly and courteous.

That inconsistency is apparent in much of Dorner’s backstory. There’s the man who played on his college football team and is nothing but smiles on Facebook and in military and police photos. And then there’s Dorner the fugitive ex-cop, who in the past week has terrorized Southern California with a Rambo-style rampage targeting police officers and killing three people. Friends call him honorable and passionate, but emerging information about Dorner’s past suggests a conflicted, even disturbed figure.

“I know most of you who personally know me are in disbelief to hear from media reports that I am suspected of committing such horrendous murders and have taken drastic and shocking actions in the last couple of days,” Dorner allegedly wrote on his Facebook page in the days after police say he shot and killed the daughter of a retired LAPD captain and her fiancé. The former captain had represented him at a hearing on his 2009 dismissal from the police force. “You are saying to yourself that this is completely out of character of the man you knew who always wore a smile wherever he was seen.” Since then, Dorner is believed to have killed a Riverside police officer and wounded another, and to have grazed the head of a Los Angeles police officer.

(PHOTOS: Million-Dollar Manhunt: Los Angeles on Edge as Search Intensifies for Fugitive Ex-Cop)

Law-enforcement officials are now in the fifth day of a massive manhunt spanning the snowy mountains east of Los Angeles to the Mexican border. There have been few leads since they found Dorner’s burned-out truck last Thursday. On Sunday the city announced a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest. And as police seek to protect fellow officers who might be targeted and search for clues to Dorner’s whereabouts, mental-health experts are trying to understand the personality disorder that could have lurked behind Dorner’s smile for years.

Former friends and neighbors willing to speak about Dorner have had nothing but good things to say. “He was a nice guy,” says Crystal Lancaster, who lives next door to the longtime residence of Dorner’s mother in La Palma. Another woman said Dorner waved to her only days before as she watered plants in her yard. “He was a very friendly guy, very pleasant,” says the neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous. No one answered the door at the home of Dorner’s mother.

Jaime Usera, Dorner’s college friend at Southern Utah University in the late 1990s, says he had great respect for him and never saw any violent or unstable tendencies. “He was a very principled man,” Usera, who is now an attorney in Oregon, tells TIME. “I liked him, enjoyed his company and considered him a friend. He had very strong convictions, and I mean that in the most positive way.” Neil Gardner, assistant athletic director at the university, was also complimentary. “He was a great guy,” says Gardner, who would travel and eat meals with Dorner when he was a reserve running back on the football team. “He was friendly. I wouldn’t say he was outgoing, but he certainly wasn’t shy. I have a positive memory of him.”

(MORE: Suspected L.A. Gunman Calls Killing Spree His ‘Last Resort’ in Online Manifesto)

Dorner’s service in the Navy didn’t seem to provide any warning signs either. He earned the rank of Lieutenant in 2006 after joining four years earlier and served overseas in Bahrain. Dorner’s list of awards and decorations was long, including the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Pistol Expert Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, according to Navy documents. Clint Grimes, a Long Beach police sergeant who served in the Navy with Dorner, told the Daily Breeze that he was very intelligent, always followed military protocol and was always smiling.

Dorner’s past romantic relationships may tell a different story. An ex-girlfriend Ariana Williams said in court documents that he was a “severely and emotionally disturbed person,” according to the Associated Press. Williams, who only dated Dorner for several weeks, had warned other women against dating him in 2006 on a site called dontdatehimgirl.com, and Dorner filed a restraining order against her. Dorner was also married for less than a month in 2007 to a woman named April Carter, CBS News reported. One of Carter’s neighbors told TIME that Carter had been “embarrassed” about the marriage. And according to Carter’s former tenant Rachelle Brumley, Carter said she had never met anyone worth marrying. Carter didn’t return phone calls and didn’t answer the door at her Long Beach residence.

Dorner’s alleged Facebook manifesto is also far from levelheaded. In the document, the writer expresses remorse at not having shot a fellow officer in the head when he was with the LAPD after that officer used a derogatory word to describe black people. He expresses “concern” about prejudice and those who “victimize” innocent people, while at the same time promising to kill people. He also blames his dismissal from the LAPD for ruining his life and says it’s the motive for his killing spree.

(MORE: LAPD to Reopen Probe into Fugitive Ex-Cop’s Firing)

That blame, the “highly self-referential” tone and Dorner’s brief, troubled romantic relationships are signs of a condition called narcissistic-personality disorder (NPD), says James Fallon, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at UC Irvine’s medical school. That condition is characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, little ability to feel empathy and reaction to criticism with rage, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. “It is pretty clear from the reports we have so far that his traits really line up well with NPD, but these also overlap with some related personality disorders including antisocial-personality disorder,” Fallon says. Asked why so many people from Dorner’s past might describe him as friendly, Fallon says “for people with these personality disorders, it is not odd at all that they are smiling and gregarious. It is part of the con job.”

Dorner was fired from the LAPD after a disciplinary board found he had made false statements against his training officer. The police force announced this weekend that it would reopen that case. Dorner reportedly had a temper and frequently filed complaints against other officers. But that conduct wasn’t enough to warrant suspicion that he could be capable of murder — especially four years after his termination. Dorner’s behavior before the shootings was more benign, for example, than that of other recent high-profile perpetrators. James Holmes of the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater massacre had told people he wanted to kill; Jared Loughner, the man who shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, had been kicked out of college for disruptive behavior.

The unpredictability of Dorner’s alleged spree is partly what makes it so terrifying. “He left no paper trail of mental illness,” says UCLA psychology professor Paul Abramson. “In other cases, at least there’s some line of logic. This person doesn’t seem to fit that.”

MORE: Fugitive’s Rant Puts Focus on Evolving LAPD Legacy

20 comments
tryingit123
tryingit123

Interesting how when a cop gets killed or threatened we have untold resources and people available to catch their killers.  This is in addition to the million to provide as a reward - for you and me in the same situation; routinely we hear the old standby  "we're doing as much as we can" BS. 

Oh and please - don't give me the danger of protecting and serving sob story.  More cab drivers are killed each year and I don't see hysteria when that happens.

Yeah..something has to change here folks.  American tax payers are getting sucked dry and receiving far less than a happy ending for it.

1033
1033

The LAPD is a cowardly organization .....one man who has some military training, police training has sent the cowards into hiding! Beck is a racist coward who needs protection.  Now police officers need "protection". what a sorry bunch of cowards!! They have no fear when they  are shooting women in the back or gunning down unarmed teenagers or poor desperate people who only know how to pull the trigger on a weapon, if they even have a weapon. 

What would they do if we had not just one, but a hundred  Dorners-a thousand! What would the filthy cowards do then?

RealityCheck1
RealityCheck1

"Dorner’s list of awards and decorations was long, including the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Pistol Expert Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, according to Navy documents."

These are very general medals that anyone serving at this time will receive. Pistol Expert means he passed a certain level of shooting qual. Iraq Campaign means he served in Iraq. And so on. None of these medals are overly impressive, nor more than any other serviceman would have.

Also, I'm sick and tired of people who think what he did is justified in any way. Whatever your beliefs about the LAPD, NOTHING justifies taking the law into your own hands. NOTHING justifies killing. And EVEN IF you believe he is justified in killing those he believed wronged him (and if you do, you're sick) absolutely NOTHING justifies him killing people who had nothing to do with his termination. Really? He killed someone's child because he believed they wronged him. He killed randoms, because they belonged to the force he believed wronged him. Wronged or not, nothing justifies his actions. Those who portray him as some sort of folk hero are dispicable.

VincentWhirlwind
VincentWhirlwind

Wow. Can't believe these headlines or some of the comments justifying his actions.

Did anyone contact his ex-wife or his ex-girlfriend? I heard they said he was paranoid. One of them had to take out a restraining order on him.

Anyway there are no excuses or justification for him killing innocent people, no matter why he was let go from his job. And if killing innocent people alone, isn't a sign of a predatory, psychotic killer, I don't know what is.

tryingit123
tryingit123

Wow!!! Really??? No warning signs? Maybe that's because the people he encountered in his life prior to LAPD treated him like a human being instead of a 4th class citizen.

This guy is telling the truth. The details and 2 witnesses to his accounts leading to his firing attest to that FACT.

His view of the LAPD and their racism/corruption are tacitly implied by the FACT it took a week, 3 corpses, 4 wounded and international attention to review the matter.

First King, then OJ, and now Doran. Is there one person in the LA area legal/judicial system who is not suffering from loss of oxygen due to their sphincter muscle being exceedingly tight around their necks?

qwiksilverx
qwiksilverx

"...signs of a condition called narcissistic personality disorder..."  Well, that describes nearly all of Los Angeles, including my exboyfriend and quite a few current friends.

When I heard the truck had a broken axle I knew he had ditched the truck to run.  I off road that area and I have skied up there.  The terrain is rough and unforgiving on vehicles and the weather unforgiving on people.  You can get turned around and lost very quickly in summer.  In winter it gets worse.  I think he's dead in a snow drift.  I just wonder this:  If you find his stinking corpse next spring, do you get the $1 million reward?

jethromayham6
jethromayham6

This guy is big so it makes him easy to spot. So he is hiding someplace. I checked my compost pile but he wasn't there.

MajVariola
MajVariola

Kurtz: What do you call it when the assassins accuse the assassin? A lie. A lie and we have to be merciful. 

Contact the Tingirides who are endangering their neighbors in Irvine

Phil, Amy, and Nick (11th grade) Tingirides (949) 552-4333 or  949-290-9991 

you can write to the missus at   atingirides@cox.net

31 Maryland Irvine, CA 92606

Wish 'em luck


nocroman
nocroman

Mr. Dorner, an American citizen, legally declared war on the LAPD and must be treat as a combatant not a criminal or terrorist. He declared war before he made any attacks on the members of the LAPD. Civilian caualties are always part of war.

Just becuase the LAPD was stil laughing at the destruction of Mr. Dormers carrer and ilegal firing for filing a report on what he believed was a wrong done by a fellow officer (EXESSIVE ABUSE, something we have seen happen many time before at the LAPD).

Yes Mr. Dorner needs to be stopped from killing more Americans. But the news media needs to stop criminalizing him. The federal Government needs to invetigate the LAPD. There is something very wrong when a former veteran and police officer who served with honor has to resort to decloration of war on an institution  in this country due to injustice.

californiawashington
californiawashington

@qwiksilverx  stank bag. dont open your mouth again unless its to eat your own shit. youve never done anything great in your life. less ever served. 

BuzzBayless
BuzzBayless

@nocroman A declaration of war is a legal term between nations, not individual citizens, therefore he cannot legally declare war on the LAPD or any other entity, government agency, foreign nation, drugs, poverty or anybody or anything else.  He is an individual citizen. The LAPD is not a foreign nation anyway. His declaration of war is not valid. It doesn't matter what he said before he started shooting family members, He is a criminal. The definition of what legally constitutes a declaration of war is freely available on the internet.  Google "declared war".

nocroman
nocroman

Dear BuzzBayless, A declaration of war is declared by the leaders of a nation which are individuals of said nation. Any human being has the right to declare war upon another human being or nation. That right cannot be taken away by any other human being. Your opinion has been expressed which is your right in this our country. I fought for that right for you to do so. But I believe you are wrong if you think no one man can declare war on this nation or another man or even a police depatment that has a track recod for abuse of the very citizens it is supposed to protect.

Just because a group of people get together, and then make laws, Those laws are only valid in that area thay control and by those that acept those laws. But when those that make those laws, fail to abide by those laws themselves and hold themselves above the law, Then ecery man has the right to declare war and pick up arms to rectify the injustice being done upon himself and others. So it was when our forefathers declared our freedom from the tyranny of the English empire. History is written by the winners of any war. History would be taught very differently if England had won in our war for independence.  Declaring war IS NOT A LEGAL PROCESS!

Unlike the Japaneese, Mr. Dormer Declared war before he started his attacks on those he named in his delaration of war.

tryingit123
tryingit123

Relax "Buzz" - geeeeeeeeeeezus let's assume for the sake of sounding like anal retentive tight azzzzus and before we get our panties in a wad he was only using a figure of speech.

BTW - The LAPD has a histroy of racism/corruption and this guy has a histroy of honorable service and  2 eye witnesses that back his accounts of the event leading to his firing.

I'm just smart enough to use my common sense on this one and say he was in the right but up against a department known for thos type of behaavior.

The fact it took a week, 3 corpses, 4 wounded and international exposure before they agreed to review thier position should tell you what he was up against - well then again- you won't be able to find all that in the dictionary or on google so maybe not.

nocroman
nocroman

Dear Buzz Bayless. Well I guess thats you opinion and your entitled to voice it. But that does Not make you right. Any Human being has the right to declare war on another human being, government, nation, entity or anything else he/she chooses to. You can say all you want that it's Not legal or that they cannot, but it does not change the fact that they did and they can and will carry out a war against those that they have declared that war on.

P.S. Thanks for your service to our country. You might have been one of the guys that covered my butt while I was busy with other enemies. If not you did your duty and I am proud to call you my brother in arms even though we seem to have a difference of opinion here.

I would like to see Mr. Dormer caught and treated as a combatant, NOT a criminal. IF he has a valid reason for going to war with the LAPD. and a federal investigation shows he did then peace should be offered and Mr. Dormer should be released under terms of peace. If Not then Mr Dormer should face trial as have many other leaders who have declared war and lost. As the Germans did in Nurnburg for their involvment in World War 2.

AS for Mr. Rockefeller declaring war on the iRS or Iceland, he is free to do so, but will have to do it with his own money as I doubt the US citizens will back him in his war as I know the US citizens do not back Mr. Dormer in his war against the LAPD.

BuzzBayless
BuzzBayless

@nocroman I did assume that he said it as a figure of speech, but didn't see any indications that you thought so upon reading the first paragraph in your original post. A declaration of war is declared by leaders of a nation, individuals that are acting as the lawful representatives of that nation, (the government). Senator Rockefeller for instance, while being a part of the government, but acting as an individual, cannot declare war on Iceland or the IRS. I fought for this country too.