Published February 15, 2013
The positive identification Thursday of the killer ex-LAPD cop Christopher Dorner’s burned remains ends one of Southern California’s most terrifying crime sprees. Matched by dental records, Dorner’s charred corpse had been removed the day before from the ashes of a mountain cabin where a furious shootout, the final chapter of this bizarre drama, played out in a hail of gunfire and flames. That it happened as the president prepared to address the nation on critical issues including gun violence, made it even more relevant and surreal.
For six days, as the whole world watched, the disgruntled rogue officer spread murder and mayhem throughout Southern California. Driven by hatred of the force that fired him five years before for lying, he vowed to wage "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" and warned cops connected to his firing and their families that they "will now live the life of the prey."
In the end, the closest Dorner got to inflicting pain and suffering on the Police Department he hated was the cold-blooded murders of the daughter of the retired police captain who represented him in his failed disciplinary hearing, and her fiancé. His other victims were officers from adjacent Riverside and San Bernardino counties that had nothing to do with his original complaint. Yet, Dorner disrupted life throughout a huge swath of Southern California and beyond. After edgy police in Torrance California mistakenly shot two women delivering newspapers, by the Sunday night of the 55th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles police nerves were so frayed and the manhunt so intense, black men were driving around with banners and T-shirts that read, “Don’t Shoot, I’m Not Dorner.”
Although there are some unresolved issues, like why the cabin where the fugitive holed up for five days was not properly searched despite being a stone’s throw from the command post authorities had set up in the Big Bear ski resort, now it is over, and everyone is relieved.
“I’m relieved for the families who have lost love ones and the family of the San Bernardino County deputy (killed in the final shootout), and the others, all of whom were killed in cold blood,” the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, told me in an exclusive interview. “There’s a sigh of relief but there’s also a sense of loss right now, because so many people lost their lives. So it is bittersweet.”
There is something else I find deeply troubling in the aftermath of this urgent drama. Many of the African-American callers to my show on Talk Radio 790 KABC have voiced measured sympathy for the devil, saying things like, "What Dorner did was wrong, but he’s right about racism within the LAPD." "Nothing or not much has changed with the LAPD since the bad old days of the Rodney King riots, the Ramparts scandal or the O.J. Simpson trail." "I get stopped and harassed by LA cops all the time." "Dorner was driven to do what he did."
It is shocking, mainly because to many of these callers, the perceived racial wrong suffered by Dorner seems to outweigh the magnitude of his violence.
Earlier Thursday I interviewed Bill Bratton, the superb former chief of the LAPD (from 2002 to 2009), credited with inventing community policing, drastically reducing crime and vastly improving the relationship between cops and the minority community. He was frustrated and upset by the sentiments expressed by so many callers.
“I’m sorry they have this opinion, but this is not the reality," he said. "All the polling done by the LA Times, which has been one of the harshest critics of the department, shows that consistently 2/3 of Latinos and blacks are very supportive of the LAPD. The LAPD of 2013 is not the LAPD of the early 1990’s.”
“Does racism still exist in America? You better believe it. It will take a long time to heal the wounds because every time the wounds start to heal, something like this happens, the scabs are peeled back and the haters come out. And the haters lead the charge,” he went on. “But the majority, which as you know doesn’t tend to speak out but in the polls, the majority’s opinion has changed.”
“Crime is down 60, 70 percent. It’s a different city, is it perfect? No, Will it ever be? No, but it continues to improve under the leadership of (current LAPD chief) Charlie Beck. And again, I’m sorry people feel this way, I obviously have a very different point of view.”
The slain killer ex-cop Christopher Dorner cleverly cast his personal beef with the LAPD in terms of race and social justice. He knew that if he did that and pretended that what happened to him was part of a bigger picture, then his crimes would be minimized and his status enhanced. Don’t buy into his campaign of spite and deceit. He is undeserving of sympathy. Save it for the parents, spouses and children of the people he killed.
As Chief Bratton told me, “He certainly picked a hell of a way to ‘clear his name.’ He’ll be remembered as a murderer.”