Police Facing Off With Snowstorm in California Mountains in Hunt for Accused Cop Killer

Police have tracked suspected gunman Christopher Jordan Dorner to Big Bear Lake, a ski resort 100 miles east of Los Angeles, but the trail may be growing cold.

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Will Lester / Pool / REUTERS

San Bernardino County Sheriff SWAT team members return to the command post at Bear Mountain in Big Bear Lake, California February 8, 2013.

Officials and personnel from several Southern California law enforcement agencies are braving a major snowstorm in hopes of finding a former Los Angeles police patrolman who is accused of killing three people, including a Riverside, Calif., police officer. But so far they have come up with very little in the manhunt that has entered its second day.

The search for Christopher Jordan Dorner is now centered around Big Bear Lake, a popular resort community about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, when authorities found the burned out remains of the former Naval Reservist’s truck in a wooded area there. They also found tracks leading from the truck, but at a Friday morning press conference, San Bernadino County Sheriff John McMahon said officers followed the tracks into the woods until they led to an area where the ground was frozen, losing the trail.

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

McMahon, who gave updates to the media as heavy snow fell on the area, believes that the tracks are Dorner’s and said police were searching the mountains around Big Bear where several resort cabins sit, many of them empty, which would give Dorner several places to hide. It is unclear if he owns a cabin at the resort or if he came to the nearby ski resort.

At least 100 officers were searching the area through the storm, which is limiting police visibility. But McMahon said helicopters equipped with heat sensors were grounded because of the weather.

The efforts to find Dorner could be made much more difficult by the inclement weather forecast for the area. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for that part of southern California. As much as 10 inches of snow could fall on areas higher than 6,000 feet with temperatures dropping into the low 20s.  Police were searching door-to-door for the suspect through the community up until midnight and McMahon said that search will resume throughout Friday. “Our folks just have different clothes and boots on but we’re going to continue to search regardless of the weather,” he said. “We’re going to continue searching until either we discover that he left the mountain or we find him, one of the two.”

Schools in the Big Bear Lake Unified School District were closed on Friday as a precaution.

(MORE: Career Woes, Perceived Racism Fuel Ex-Cop’s Anger)

Meanwhile, the LAPD is leaving no stone unturned in its urgent search for Dorner, and police officials in counties stretching from Nevada, Arizona and into northern  Mexico have joined the hunt. Several people have called in leads which turned out to be hoaxes. Police have been placed on protective duty to guard several people named in an online manifesto posted to Dorner’s Facebook page. Authorities fear he may try to attack them in retribution for his 2008 dismissal from the force.

Police believe Dorner murdered Cal State Fullerton assistant basketball coach Monica Quan and her fiancée on Sunday. In the manifesto, Dorner accuses Quan’s father Randy, who represented Dorner in a dispute with the LAPD, of helping facilitate his firing. He is also accused of wounding one police officer who had been set to guard one of the potential victims named in his manifesto, and of attempting to hijack a boat in San Diego. The LAPD says Dorner is carrying multiple weapons, including an assault rifle, and should be considered extremely dangerous.

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