Photos courtesy of Getty Images
By Rick Jervis
Christopher Dorner, the at-large ex-military and former police officer accused of launching a killing spree, could be using tactical and firearms training gained from stints with the U.S. Navy and Los Angeles Police Department to evade police and pose a uniquely dangerous suspect to police, law enforcement officials and tactical experts said.
The man at the center of a massive manhunt in California is potentially armed with armor-piercing ammunition and semi-automatic rifles, could likely hit a target more than 50 yards away, thinks like a police officer and, perhaps most troublesome, is not abiding by any rules.
"He understands the criminal investigation process," said Robert Arabian, chief executive of Covered 6, a Simi Valley, Calif.-based firearms and tactical training group that instructs local law enforcement agencies. "He poses a real problem."
Hundreds of law enforcement officers are combing vast swaths of southern California for Dorner, 33, after police say he killed three people, including a Riverside, Calif., police officer, and injured another officer, in shooting ambushes the past week.
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In an 11-page manifesto he posted online, Dorner alluded to using his tactical training to carry out more killings. "I will utilize every bit of small arms training, demolition, ordnance and survival training I've been given," it read. "You have misjudged a sleeping giant."
At a press conference Thursday, LAPD Chief Charlie Beckstressed the challenges of hunting someone with Dorner's background.
"He knows what he's doing," he said. "We trained him. He was also a member of the Armed Forces. It is extremely worrisome and scary."
Dorner served more than a decade with the U.S. Navy, from July 2002 to this year, and was honorably discharged Feb. 1, according to Navy records. In that time, he acquired decorations such as the Pistol Expert Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, working his way up to the rank of Lieutenant, the records show.
From November 2006 to May 2007, Dorner was part of a Coastal Riverine Group in the Middle Eastern island country of Bahrain, helping to secure ports in the country as U.S. ships came ashore, according to the Navy.
But his military training never reached advanced levels of specialized weapons or tactics, a Navy spokesman said. "He probably has more weapons training from the L.A. Police than he ever got from the U.S. Navy," the spokesman said.
As an LAPD recruit, Dorner would receive basic firearms training for service pistols such as 9mm, .40-caliber and .45-caliber, Arabian said. If he took a rifle course, which is common, the department would also train him in the use of semi-automatic rifles such as an AR-15 or M4, he said. The rifle lessons train officers to accurately hit their mark up to 100 yards away.
Police have not said what caliber weapons they believe Dorner is carrying. But in the manifesto, Dorner warns of having a variety of assault rifles, including a Bushmaster, Remington precision rifles and a Barrett .50-caliber rifle, a military-grade sniper rifle able to pierce through most protective vests worn by police officers, Arabian said. A skilled sniper using a Barrett .50-caliber rifle could hit a target up to a mile away, he said.
"That's a nasty weapon," Arabian said. "That's a formidable item for the military to go up against, much less a police department."
More troubling than his weapons cache is Dorner's on-the-job training in the streets of Los Angeles, Arabian said. As a trained officer, he likely knows the few seconds when an officer arrives to a scene when he's most vulnerable and what tactics police officials might be employing to find him, he said.
From what he's read in the manifesto and Dorner's actions so far, Arabian said peaceful surrender doesn't appear to be an option for Dorner.
"What he's demonstrated so far is a willingness to engage law enforcement," he said. "He'll either kill himself or go down in what he believes is a blaze of glory."