LOS ANGELES — There was no question. The man standing before Rick Heltebrake on a rural mountain road was Christopher Dorner.
Clad in camouflage from head to toe and wearing a bulletproof vest packed with ammunition, the most wanted man in America over the last week was just a few feet away, having emerged from a grove of trees holding a large, assault-style rifle.
As teams of officers who had sought the fugitive ex-Los Angeles police officer since last week were closing in, Dorner pointed the gun at Heltebrake and ordered him to get out of his truck.
“I don’t want to hurt you. Start walking and take your dog,” Heltebrake recalled Dorner saying during the carjacking Tuesday.
The man, who wasn’t lugging any gear, got into the truck and drove away. Heltebrake, with his 3-year-old Dalmatian Suni in tow, called police when he heard a volley of gunfire erupt soon after, and then hid behind a tree.
A short time later, police caught up with the man they believe was Dorner, surrounding a cabin in which he had taken refuge after crashing Heltebrake’s truck 80 miles east of Los Angeles. A gunfight ensued in which one sheriff’s deputy was killed and another wounded.
Then, as the gunfire ended, the cabin erupted in flames.
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said yesterday that his deputies did not intentionally burn down the cabin. His deputies shot pyrotechnic tear gas into the cabin, and it erupted in flames, he said.
A charred body was found in the basement, along with a wallet and personal items, including a California driver’s license with the name Christopher Dorner, an official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing probe.
McMahon said authorities have not positively identified the remains.