Career woes, perceived racism fuel anger of man at the center of Calif. manhunt

By Gillian Flaccus

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Feb. 8 2013 11:48 a.m. MST

This undated series of photos released by the Los Angeles Police Department shows suspect Christopher Dorner, a former Los Angeles officer.

Associated Press

Christopher Dorner sees himself as a crusader, a 6-foot, 270-pound whistleblower who confronted racism early in life and believes he suffered in his career and personal life for challenging injustices from bigotry to dishonesty.

He fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a Los Angeles police officer in 2005, but saw it unravel three years later when he was fired after a police review board decided he falsely accused his training officer of kicking a mentally ill man in the face and chest. The incident led Dorner to plot violent revenge against those he believed responsible for his downfall, according to a 14-page manifesto police believe he authored because there are details in it only he would know.

Police say Dorner began carrying out that plot last weekend when he killed a woman whose father had represented him as he fought to keep his job. On Thursday — the eighth anniversary of his first day on the job with the LAPD — Dorner ambushed two officers, killing one, authorities said.

Also killed was the woman's fiance, whose body was found along with hers in a parked car near the recently engaged couple's condominium.

"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," the manifesto reads. "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."

David Pighin, a neighbor of Dorner in the Orange County community of La Palma, said the ex-officer kept to himself and left his house and his black Nissan Titan, outfitted with tinted windows and custom rims, impeccably clean.

"There wasn't a scratch on it," Pighin said. "I would see him getting out of his truck and walk straight into the house."

Dorner has no children and court records show his wife filed for divorce in 2007, though there's no evidence one was granted. Pighin believed Dorner lived with his mother and possibly his sister. On Wednesday night, Pighin saw a white van with two armed SWAT officers in front of Dorner's house and later learned about the manhunt.

"We were completely shocked," he said. "This is a good family that appeared to be really nice people. They were really admired in the neighborhood."

The 33-year-old Dorner graduated in 2001 from Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah, school officials said, where he majored in political science and had an unremarkable career as a reserve running back on the football team.

A friend from those days, Jamie Usera, told the Los Angeles Times that he saw no red flags. The two would have friendly debates about the extent of racism in the U.S. and take trips into the Utah desert to hunt rabbits, Usera told the newspaper.

"He was a typical guy. I liked him an awful lot," said Usera, who's now an attorney in Salem, Ore. "Nothing about him struck me as violent or irrational in any way. He was opinionated, but always seemed level-headed."

In addition to police work, Dorner served in the Naval Reserves, earning a rifle marksman ribbon and pistol expert medal. He served in a naval undersea warfare unit and various aviation training units, according to military records, and took a leave from the LAPD and deployed to Bahrain in 2006 and 2007.

His last day with the Navy was Friday.

"I will utilize every bit of small arms training, demolition, ordinance and survival training I've been given," the manifesto reads. "You have misjudged a sleeping giant."

Police were providing more than 40 protection details for people they determined at high risk after Dorner warned in his manifesto that their families would be harmed.

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