Christopher Dorner: ‘Django Unchained’?!

Chris Dorner: Django Unchained?!

If you had asked most people in America just a few short weeks ago what they thought about Christopher Jordan Dorner, you’d be hard pressed to find many people outside of Los Angeles, California the name had any resonance with. Fast forward to mid-February and it’s his name above all others at the center many heated discussions. The 33 year old former Officer of the Los Angeles Police Department and Navy Reserve Lieutenant had every police station in the state of California in a state of panic, so much so that a $1 million bounty had been placed on his head. Chris Dorner was first introduced to the American public from coast to coast as a dangerous cop-killer, after he was accused of slaughtering 3 people: 1 police officer and 2 civilians. Despite having branded the man a “cop-killer”, many officials were taken-aback by the sudden emergence of a relatively sizable amount of public support shown for the fugitive, a phenomenon that only increased when they publicly released the “Dorner Manifesto” (as the media liked to call it). Police claimed the manifesto had been posted on Dorner’s Facebook page on February 7, and in it he implicated himself in the 3 shootings that occurred on February 3rd. But if the investigators in this case were counting on the document’s release to draw sympathy from the public, these hopes must have been quickly extinguished when, to their astonishment, people following these events began to offer empathetic words of praise and support for Chris Dorner’s cause on popular social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. Seemingly overnight, the man police officers viewed as a despicable traitorous brute was being hailed as a hero by a surprising amount of the public citizenry, who saw in Dorner a representative poster-child in their everyday struggle against police brutality and corruption. The Dorner Manifesto, for a short moment in time, seemed like the greatest call-to-action put forth in generations against the police and their shameless abuse of power. For them, he was almost like a real-life embodiment of ‘Django Unchained’.  (*) [1]

The intense amount of polarization surrounding Chris Dorner’s case as he swiftly rose to fame does not begin with him nor does it end with him. While it is unknown exactly how large his base of support actually was, it was enough to impact media coverage of the events. (**) [2] Public opinion, however, had little impact on how the manhunt would be carried out by Dorner’s once-fellow officers of the law. As we shall see, bringing him to stand trial before a jury of his peers in a court of law was never on their agenda in the first place. But overall concern about public perception was enough to warrant L.A.’s Chief of Police, Charlie Beck, to launch an “Internal Affairs investigation”, effectively re-opening the case Dorner brought against the LAPD in 2009, in which he argued he was fired based on insufficient evidence. (^) As Chief Beck announced the formation of a new investigatory commission, he made abundantly clear his awareness of the implications being made against his department when he stated, “I am aware of the ghosts of the LAPD’s past, and one of my biggest concerns is that they will be resurrected by Dorner’s allegations of racism.” [3] While the investigation is little more than a façade, he has plenty of reason to feel concerned about public perception of the LAPD, especially when it comes to matters of race. It’s been only five short years since the Department came fully out of federal oversight by the FBI, which began in 2000 after such an overwhelming amount of evidence was compiled detailing the prevalence of the Department’s corruption that the Feds were left with no other alternative. This not-so-distant past played a crucial factor as to why Dorner’s story quickly resonated with people who weren’t ashamed to speak passionately in his defense.  It is with some justification that many people question why such alarm is made over the deaths of one or two police officers, while at the same time police officers are granted authority to harass, brutalize and even kill unarmed civilians around the country with complete immunity. (^^) The heinous attack committed in 1991 by at least nine officers of the LAPD in which they brutally beat an African American motorist, Rodney King, to a pulp left an unforgettable impression on the minds of everyone who viewed the incident, which had fortunately been captured on videotape by a camera mounted on the dashboard of a police car. No one, however, was as profoundly affected as Los Angeles’s Black community, who were keenly aware of the fact that Rodney King could have just as easily been them or one of their family members. Then, just as it appeared things couldn’t get any worse for them, came the one single miscarriage of justice that could potentially outmatch the blood spilled at the hands of the vicious police officers who attempted to beat Rodney King to death. In spite of the fact that they’d all been caught on tape inflicting excruciating pain on their helpless victim, a jury consisting of ALL whites acquitted all nine police officers of each and every charge, thus signalizing to police everywhere that they could do with Black people as they pleased without any fear any of reprisals. For the African American community, they must have received news of this ruling as in effect being the same as the Dred Scott v. Sanford ruling 135 years earlier, which held that Black people were “so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” [4] It is understandable then that members of a community, who’ve been subjected to the lion’s share of America’s hatred and violence for centuries, would respond to this atrocity with riots of their own. Los Angeles, for the first time since the revolutionary era of the 1960’s, went up in flames. (^*) Barely five years after the acquittal and its aftermath, another scandal rocked the LAPD, fueling the flames of public discontent once again. During what would later be known as the Rampart Corruption scandal, Los Angeles Police Officers organized and carried out a plot which they touted as an operation to sweep members of gangs off the streets of L.A., which in reality turned out to be massive roundups of entire neighborhoods of young Black and Brown males. Those caught in the raids were subsequently beaten and tortured into forced confessions; they were framed by the system. The discovery of the extent to which corruption plagued the LAPD was the final straw motivating the FBI, itself no friend to minority communities, to sue the Department. The entire aforementioned, Chief Beck would like us to believe, is but a thing of the past. His narrative is reinforced by none other than current Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who assures that “this is no longer your father’s LAPD.” As evidence, authorities point to the fact that in the past 15 years, the Department has become a majority-minority place of employment, in addition to having had 2 African American Chiefs of Police. (*^) Additionally, they cite their annually-sponsored Martin Luther King Jr. Day Prayer Breakfast held for members of various communities. (+) If recent community reports are anything to go by, however, the Department is far from having turned a corner on its violent racist past. Recently reported accusations include a woman being handcuffed and unmercifully tasered, an African American teenaged skateboarder being bashed on top of his head by a male officer, and a female officer hurling an African American woman to the ground in handcuffs before stepping on top of her groin.

Rodney King before and after picture
Rodney King

   LAPD Officers as well as officers from all over the state did themselves no favors in the way they carried out their weeklong manhunt for Chris Dorner. Law enforcement appeared to have been so stricken with fear of the perceived terror awaiting them in the shadows that they began seeing Chris Dorner around every corner and in every face. [5] In the Southwestern town of Torrance, California, after spotting a vehicle matching the 2005 Blue-grey Nissan Titan Dorner was allegedly driving police immediately sprayed the vehicle with bullets. Once the gunfire ceased, the truck was discovered not to be carrying Chris Dorner, but instead two Latina women delivering newspapers. (++) Oddly enough, another vehicle was shot at by police merely seconds later in another part of that very same town. This time the truck’s description didn’t even match that of Dorner’s. [6] Less than 24 hours later a middle-aged African American businessman, George Pruitt, currently visiting San Diego on a business trip from Portland, Oregon, sat innocently in a car parked in front of his hotel room when he noticed in his rearview mirror a policeman peering at him from behind a tree. Much to his alarm, the police officer was carrying a machine gun. Pruitt became increasingly nervous when what appeared to be an entire SWAT Team approached his vehicle, armed to the teeth. He remained completely silently and was terrified when they forced him out of the vehicle, hurled his body against the ground and placed him in handcuffs. Pruitt feared for his life when, luckily, someone on the force realized he may not be Christopher Dorner after all. Later on a spokesperson for the San Diego Police Department explained that Pruitt had simply been “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” (*+) [7] Tactics such as these and the explanations that follow demonstrate above all else the blatant disregard police officers around the country have for basic civil rights and dignity of the people they are supposed to “serve”. One Hollywood screenwriter observing these events felt compelled to write of Chris Dorner: “This is an intelligent man who has stared into the dark heart of corruption. Now he’s taking vengeance on it, trying to turn the LAPD into the victims they have persecuted, including Kendrick McDade, Alisia Thomas and Kelly Thomas.” [8]

If Christopher Dorner were simply seeking to right the wrongs of the system he’d once been a part, were the crimes for which he stood accused as nearly as heinous as has been suggested? To gain a clearer picture, let’s first examine who the victims were, what possible motives could have existed for him to feel need to kill them, and finally we’ll examine how likely it is, based on the available evidence, that he could be responsible for committing these crimes. The first two of what would amount to four deaths were of a young soon-to-wed couple, Monica Quan and her fiancé Keith Lawrence. [9] Their lifeless freshly bullet-ridden bodies were discovered on the night of February 3 in a motor vehicle inside Keith Lawrence’s parking garage. This couple was, by any stretch of the imagination, innocent of any wrongdoing, at least in matters concerning misconduct by the LAPD. Why then would Chris Dorner, in a vengeful rampage against his oppressors, choose as his vendetta’s initial victims a couple who not even employed with the LAPD? While it is true that Lawrence was currently working as a security officer at the local sheriff’s department, a more credible explanation lies in the fact that the father of Monica Quan was Randal Quan, the former Captain of the LAPD who, in retirement, served as Dorner’s defense attorney during the 2009 Board of Directors hearings deciding the legality of Dorner’s termination. It is possible that, having failed to attain reinstatement to the Force, Dorner placed a great deal of the blame for this loss directly on former Captain Quan. Perhaps in a twisted act of revenge Dorner decided he would take from Quan what he cherished most of all, his own family. [10] Later the same night in Riverside County, not far from where the couple had just been shot, two officers sat parked in a cop car at an intersection awaiting the red light to turn green when suddenly, they were “ambushed” by an unknown suspect. According to Lieutenant Officer Guy Toussaint, police were able to determine later that “because of the close proximity to the timeline [of the Quan and Lawrence murders], we believe there is a strong likelihood that former LAPD Officer Christopher Dorner was involved in [the] incident.” (+*) [11] Taking the life of another can never be truly morally justified. However, it is understandable why members of the public might feel little or no remorse upon learning of a police officer’s death. It is due to the fact that many people have had their own loved ones murdered at the hands of police officers, yet there was never any remorse shown them even as their loved one’s killer freely roamed the streets, or in some cases promoted to a better position entirely. There is an exhaustive amount of evidence clearly documenting the routine “lawful” practices of police: brutalizing, beating, framing, and even killing unarmed citizens in the thousands, who disproportionately happen to be African American men. Dorner’s written manifesto, with the stated purpose of avenging victims of police brutality and corruption, is clearly the driving force that catapulted him to heroic status in the eyes of society’s most wronged. It is in this sense that he became like “Django”, the fugitive slave character in Quentin Tarantino’s Blockbuster hit film, Django Unchained, who escapes the Southern slave plantations and acts as an accomplice to a professional bounty hunter. In a quest to rescue his long-lost love, he gets the chance to exact revenge on the Southern slave-holding aristocracy and show them how it feels to be forced to live in a constant state of fear and terror. There’s a potential roadblock preventing Dorner from fully becoming a Django-like hero, and that’s the deaths of Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence. While there is beauty in both fictional and realistic tales of oppressed peoples striking back against their oppressor, it is hard to argue that was Dorner’s case when his very first targets had nothing to gain or lose by his firing. If he did in fact take the lives of this young couple, his heroic status has been dealt a huge blow.

Marc Lamont Hill Bill O'Reilly face-off controversy
Marc Lamont Hill

Still, there’s something about the particulars of the Chris Dorner case that feels strikingly familiar to a great many Americans, who’ve either bore witness to similar events during in their own lives or have read about them in history books. When the LAPD’s announced they’d placed a $1,000,000 bounty on Dorner’s head, one is reminded of the United States’ centuries-long war against Black Freedom Fighters orchestrated by FBI and CIA operatives (COINTELPRO anyone?). One of the largest sums offered as a reward during the 19th century was for the capture of fugitive slave and Underground Railroad conductor, Harriet Tubman. For years after her initial escape, Tubman would return again and again as night fell to help guide her brethren still held in bondage towards the light of freedom. Southern slaveholders were so incensed by the way she was able to carry out this enormous task without their knowledge that they placed a bounty on her head amounting to $52,000. (+^) During the 20th century the stakes raised even higher as the U.S. government amped up its war against the Black Panther Party of Self Defense and its membership, including Huey P. Newton and Eldridge Cleaver. But the Feds sought nobody as zealously as they did Assata Shakur, made evident by the fact that the Justice Department offered a record $1,000,000 reward for her capture and return. They even attempted to have her extradited from Cuba and placed her name at the very top of its “terrorist” list. (^+) [12] It is within this context that Dorner became linked in the eyes of his supporters to a great line of African American Freedom Fighters designated “enemies”, “terrorists” and “fugitives” of the Capitalist State. These misunderstood emotions were explained most accurately on a during a recent CNN commentary by none other than Columbia University’s renowned English Professor, Marc Lamont Hill. While he did not share the supporters’ sympathies, he nevertheless attempted to provide insight into their frustrations by explaining how this whole incident opened the door for the “public conversation we had about police brutality, about police corruption, about State violence.” “This is serious business here,” he went on to explain. “As far as Dorner himself goes, he’s been like a real life superhero to many people. Now don’t get me wrong. What he did was awful. Killing innocent people is bad. But when you read his manifesto, when you read the message that he left, he wasn’t entirely crazy. He had a plan and a mission here. And many people weren’t rooting for him to kill innocent people. They’re rooting for someone who was wronged to get a kind of revenge against the system. It’s almost like watching Django Unchained in real life. It’s kind of exciting.” [13] Cable News conservative mouthpiece Bill O’ Reilly was having none of it. In an interview he conducted with Hill after his comments sparked a mild controversy, O’ Reilly began the dialogue by pointing out that Dorner was accused of killing two civilians as well as two police officers, and chastised Hill for a perceived lack of “sensitivity”. (#) As the conversation went on, O’ Reilly made an embarrassing attempt at conflating Christopher Dorner and Josef Stalin of the former Soviet Union, at which he failed miserably. He argued with a straight face that what Hill was in effect saying is that “some Russians supported Stalin because they were victims of the Tsar who took their land away.” Apparently O’Reilly is as inept in Russian history as he is in American history (Historians have universally panned his books about presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy for their historical inaccuracies). Clearly, it is beyond his understanding why there would be public discontent with the LAPD in the first place, which he clearly demonstrates when he insists that racism couldn’t possibly have anything to do with Dorner’s termination from his job. To support this, he touts the judge’s ruling as the final word that “Dorner did something bad and was fired for it.” What this “something” could have been, however, even he cannot theorize. (*#) To Marc Lamont Hill’s credit, he didn’t take the bait and managed to stay focused on the real issues: “Police investigate the Police and decide whether the police are wrong or right, and in that context you don’t get justice. There’s no outside voice.” On that note O’ Reilly ended the conversation, stating that because two police officers were dead, “the time isn’t right” to be discussing issues like racism and corruption within the LAPD. [14] But regardless of whether he feels the time is ripe or not, Christopher Dorner’s story has captivated a nation, and served as a rallying cry for those who have come to view police as if they are foreign occupiers of their communities.

Many different stories and theories have circulated about the airwaves, but the greatest source of information is none other than Chris Dorner himself, whose thoughts and feelings have been immortalized through a typewritten letter, addressed “To: America”, “From: Christopher Jordan Dorner”, “Subject: Last Resort”. Through his “manifesto”, he offered many valuable clues explaining why it is he did what he did, and helps us discover what it was that brought him past the point of no return. (#^) [15] He begins the letter by acknowledging those who knew him best during his lifetime (friends & family), believing that they will surely be shocked into disbelief upon learning the man they knew was now “suspected of committing such horrendous murders.” And while he is fully aware he will be “be vilified by the LAPD and the media,” he feels what he is doing is “a necessary evil that I do not enjoy but must partake” to bring about “substantial change…within the LAPD.” What strikes one as noteworthy from the outset of the 1st paragraph is that Dorner is not a stupid man, nor is he necessarily insane. The anger and bitterness he expresses is quite real and derives from a very genuine place. It appears that somewhere down the line there must have been one event in particular that broke his spirit in a way never having been done before, one he felt sullied his name and reputation, robbing him of all dignity.

While he lists a multitude of grievances he has with the LAPD, ranging from their use of racial slurs to outright theft and bribery, none drew his ire quite the way his dishonorable discharge did. As he briefly recounted his childhood and adolescent experiences with racism, in retrospect it seemed as if it was all preparation for the events that unfold during his time as Los Angeles Police Officer. Growing up in Norwalk, California, the number of African American children living in his neighborhood could be counted on a single hand, and he was regularly exposed to displays of overt racism by his white classmates. In his 1st year of elementary school he recalled being taunted by a white kid during recess who repeatedly called him a “nigger”, to which his response was “swift and nonlethal”: a punch and a kick. As a result of the incident, both the white student and Dorner were “swatted” by the principal. When Dorner inquired as to why he had been swatted as well, the principal lectured him about how “as good Christians we are to turn the other cheek as Jesus did.” Dorner rightly pointed out, however, that “the Bible never once stated Jesus was called a nigger.” Incidents such as this one became a regular occurrence throughout his elementary and Jr. High School years, resulting in Dorner’s “life decision that I will not tolerate racial derogatory terms spoken to me.” Similar situations would follow him well past his formal education years and into his days of employment with the LAPD, which began February 7, 2005. He once even initiated a formal complaint against two of his fellow officers, Hermilio Buridios and Marlon Magana, for their open and frequent use of racially derogatory terms when describing both Black and Jewish neighborhoods and communities. The incident which finally brought about this complaint involved Officer Magana repeatedly referring to a certain individual as a “nigger”, to which Dorner replied by informing the officer of the inappropriateness of the word’s usage. To this, Magana responded by informing Dorner that he would “say it when I want.” Immediately Officer Buridios chimed in to inform Dorner that he’d use the word when he pleased as well. Apparently the two officers had tried Dorner’s patience, as he suddenly grabbed Buridios by the throat and squeezed tightly, telling him, “Don’t fucking say that.” Eventually a group of officers wrestled the two men apart, but Dorner later had regrets about his handling of the situation. Instead of trying to strangle the officer, “what I should have done was put a…bullet in their skulls.” Subsequently the Office of Internal Affairs investigated the matter and gave both officers 22-day paid suspensions, or what could be more accurately called “paid vacations.” To Dorner, this was tantamount to an official declaration by the LAPD that “it is acceptable for fellow officers to call black officers niggers to their face and you will receive a slap on the wrist.” It demonstrated to him that “the department has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days.” Of the officers involved in Rodney King’s beating, he expressed anger over how they’d been “promoted to supervisor, commanders, command staff, and executive positions.” Finally he directs a question to his readers that, while made in reference to the LAPD, could just as easily apply to police departments everywhere in the nation: “Do you trust [them] to enforce department policy and investigate use of force on arrestees by [their own] officers?”

Of all the corrupt dealings and internal scandals Dorner bore witness to during his years as an officer, he could recall none of them as fervently as he could one fateful encounter with a female officer by the name of Teresa Evans, who he credited with having “destroyed my life and name because of her actions.” This event in particular would lead to his life going on a downward spiral, where he was filled with hopelessness and daily battled severe depression. In the month of August of 2007, he witnessed Officer Evans, now Sergeant Teresa Evans, physically abuse a handcuffed man, Christopher Gettler, by violently kicking him erratically with two blows to the chest and one to the head. This wasn’t the first time Dorner encountered Evans’s brutish behavior. She had racked up quite a “use of force history during her career” which she took an immense amount of pride in. She relished being called “Chupacabra”, which her colleagues called her in reference to her habit of “draw[ing] blood from her suspects and arrestees.” One of those arrested was an elderly woman in her mid-70’s who’d been arrested on battery charges. Dorner claims to have seen Officer Evans rip the flesh off her arm.

On June 25, 2008, Chris Dorner was officially notified of his termination from the force. It had been approximately ten months to the day he’d reported his colleague for her continual use of excessive force. He was certain that “the department retaliated toward me for reporting [Teresa] Evans for kicking Christopher Gettler.” He’d broken what was called the “Blue line” of silence, and for that the department no longer had any use for him. What followed were months in preparation of a hearing before the Board of Directors, where he valiantly fought for his pride, dignity and honor against what seemed like insurmountable odds. The Board of Directors Hearing would prove to be little more than a sham, as it mainly consisted of close friends of Teresa Evans dating back to her days patrolling in the Harbor Division, in effect rendering a negative verdict all but inevitable. His request to remove one of her closest friends from the panel on the grounds that their friendship presented a “conflict of interest” was immediately dismissed, becoming a foreshadower of things to come. Every officer called to witness except for one denied Dorner’s version of events and correlated the version put forth by Teresa Evans, who soon after the hearings was promoted to Sergeant. Nothing infuriated him more than being called a liar. For a man who described honesty as his single greatest virtue, questioning his truthfulness was a direct attack on his honor. He thought his vindication had arrived finally in the form of a videotape which included Christopher Gettler himself recounting the incident in minute detail. Despite all this, the BOD found him guilty and proceeded to make his termination final. Although Dorner’s word on this subject is all we have attesting to the authenticity of the videotape, it is important to note that throughout the entire manifesto he repeatedly issues demands for journalists to make further inquiries into the case. He even provides the first step to what he believes will be his vindication in the eyes of history: “Submit a request for FOIA with the LAPD to gain access to the BOR transcripts which occurred from 10/08 to 2/09.” “There,” he says, “you will see that a video was played for the BOR members of Mr. Christopher Gettler who suffers from schizophrenia and dementia stating that he was kicked by a female officer…twice in the upper body and once in the face.” As of this writing, I have no knowledge of any journalist having perused these documents or making any serious attempt at verifying whether the reason for Dorner’s firing was as he described or not. It does beg the question as to how likely it would be for a person who was lying to instruct journalists to request the official Hearing transcripts for the public record if he were not in fact telling the truth. Even if the records were released though, it is highly unlikely that this was put an end to speculation about the matter, as many believe it would be more than unlikely for the LAPD to put out information to the public that would present itself in an unflattering light. Whatever comes of these inquiries, however, the one thing that is for certain is that Dorner will not be alive to witness it. In time he was certain everyone will “see the truth,” but regretfully “I will not be alive to see my name cleared.”

The conflict with Officer Evans and his subsequent termination from the Force caused Dorner to become disillusioned with police and the good-standing he was taught to revere them with as a child. As he explained, he “lost complete faith in the system, when the system betrayed, slandered and libeled me.” After he’d put so much blood, sweat and tears into becoming a good police officer, his termination negatively impacted his life in more fields than just the professional. Soon he was also dishonorably discharged from the NAVY, and became increasingly estranged from his mother and sister. “In essence,” he said, “I’ve lost everything because the LAPD took my name and knew I was INNOCENT!!!” During his 4 years with the LAPD, he’d seen officers of the law do “some of the most vile things humans can inflict on others”, whether it was nearly beating an arrestee to death or pocketing money from an arrested narcotics dealer. It was now plain as day that if justice were to be carried out, it would not be from any officer of the law. Instead he was determined to take justice into his own hands. He saw clearly that “the enemy combatants are not citizens and suspects, it’s the police officers.” But he now vowed he would change all that. “A sleeping giant” had awoken from its slumber, and no officer could escape what was coming to them, be they “Caucasian”, “Black”, “Hispanic”, “Lesbian”, or “Asian.” They would all “live the life of the prey.” He would carry out the task before him without fear of punishment or retribution, for he had nothing left to lose. His “casualty means nothing.” There could be no preparation for the scale of attacks he swore he was bringing their way, and he would not cease until “the department states the truth about my innocence, PUBLICLY!!!” To the public, he advised not to shed any tears over the loss of police officers’ lives, because “they would not do the same for you…they see you as extra overtime at a crime scene and a perimeter.” (^#) But if all the aforementioned seem to unequivocally vindicate him, there are other passages in the text which could lead to a different conclusion.

Whatever beef Dorner had with the police, it should be with policemen in general and not necessarily extend to include their families, particularly not their children. At first in the manifesto, he doesn’t stray too far off message, and even shows a slight hint of empathy for the children’s situation as he writes, “You’re parents were not the individuals you thought they were.” But then he follows up with a deadly threat, warning the parents that “suppressing the truth will lead to deadly consequences for you and your family.” At this point the letter takes a brief and disturbing turn for the worse, with these words directed at 11 LAPD officers: “I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own, I’m terminating yours… Look your wives/husbands and surviving children directly in the face and tell them the truth as to why your children are dead.” The inclusion of these violent threats made against people who had absolutely no say as to who their parents are, are disgusting in pretty much every way imaginable. Yet they provide the most obvious clues to answering 2 of the most important questions: Was it indeed Chris Dorner who pulled the trigger on the gun that killed Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence, and was Chris Dorner telling the truth about why he was fired by the LAPD? The intention of Dorner when he wrote this manifesto was apparently not to present himself in the most positive light. If that were the case, he would have left these specific threats against children out of them. On the other hand, his motivation is to present the truth, regardless of how it makes him appear in the process. Were he writing the letter just to present himself purely as a victim, he would not have alluded to the future murders of Monica Quan and her husband. He was brutally honest (pardon the pun), and never tried to sugar-coat his feelings. One gets the overall impression that he is a man that takes an extreme amount of pride in just how honest he is. From it can be reasonably concluded that his account of Teresa Evans, her use of force against Christopher Gettler, and the unfair hearing at which his fellow officers conspired against him are in all likelihood true.

By the time Christopher Dorner became the lone suspect in the February 3rd deaths, his presumed guilt or innocence gave way to one indisputable fact: he was nowhere to be found. On February 7he had reportedly been seen fleeing in a 2005 Blue or Grey Nissan Titan. Later the same day police located the abandoned vehicle with a burnt-up engine in the snowy mountain Big Lake Resort. After this discovery, police and a SWAT Team were deployed to scope out the mountains, armed as if they were going battle against an entire nation’s army. At the height of the search there were over 200 officers covering the mountains by foot, breaking into over 600 cabins in pursuit of a single man. Even stranger is the fact that his actual location wasn’t much further from where police located the abandoned vehicle. As early as February 8th, he’d taken up residence in a rental house directly behind its owner’s own cabin. In other words he was located right across the street from Big Lake’s local police headquarters. Of this embarrassing oversight, a local Big Lake resident hinted at incompetence on the part of the police by remarking, “They said they went door-to-door but then he’s right there under their noses. Makes you wonder if the police even knew what they were doing. He was probably sitting there laughing at them the whole time.” [16]

After occupying several days in what seemed like complete silence in the rental house’s upper living quarters, Dorner heard the room’s doorknob turn and quickly grabbed his gun in anticipation of whoever might be on the other side. Instead of police officers, as he might’ve expected, he was greeted by the faces of the cabin’s owners, an old couple by the name of Reynolds. They had simply come to tidy up the room in preparation for vacationers who’d be arriving in a few weeks. When they opened the door they were taken aback at the sight of Christopher Dorner wielding a gun directly at them as he instructed them to “remain calm.” In order to prevent them from notifying authorities of his whereabouts, he took them hostage by tying them together, gagging their mouths with towels, and covering their heads with pillowcases. He informed them he’d been observing them for a few days through the window, and they’d earned his respect for being such hard workers. During these few days of captivity, Dorner repeatedly tried, although not very convincingly, to convince the Reynolds couple that “I don’t have a problem with you, so I’m not going to hurt you.” Indeed, during the entire time they were held hostage, Dorner never inflicted any physical pain on either of them. After he fled the scene on February 12 driving in the couple’s vehicle, police were hot on his tail this time thanks to a call made by Mrs. Reynolds informing them of what happened. (~) The squad engaged in an intense shootout with Chris Dorner as they pursued him to yet another cabin, during which another officer was shot and killed (3rd and final). Somehow Dorner managed to exit the vehicle and make it inside of the cabin amid a barrage of police gunfire. What followed was a confusing and climatic scene of epic proportions, playing itself out on TV screens in living rooms all across America.

It was less than an hour to go before the President of the United States was to deliver the first State of the Union Address of his 2nd term, but all the cable news medias’ attention was focused elsewhere, airing live video feed from a bird’s eye view of large puffy clouds of smoke emanating directly from a wooden cabin in the snow-covered mountains. How the police shootout with Chris Dorner had come to this no one seemed quite certain, and all the news agencies were able to come up with were conflicting accounts from different sources. Initially, the police accounts reported they had had no knowledge of the origins of the fire, fervently insisting that they had not caused it (at least not intentionally anyway). The night passed into complete darkness with the fate of the ever elusive Christopher Dorner still unknown to the rest of the world. (~*) [17]

What appeared to be a fuller more comprehensive picture of the events that occurred that fateful night began to emerge on February 13th and 14th with the discovery of charred remains covered in ashes. Bits and pieces of bone fragments along with a human skull were all that was left of Christopher Dorner’s earthly remains. One of the main indicators allowing investigators to positively identify the remains as belonging to Dorner was the location of a single bullet wound to the head, which they say corroborates police reports of having heard the sound of a single gunshot coming from within the cabin before the fire began. The case was now closed…Or was it? Some of the video and audio tape that came to surface in the aftermath tell quite a different story than the one most frequently recited, instead painting a scene in which police officers shattered the cabin’s windows by throwing every type of tear gas imaginable inside to smoke him out, while an amplified voice continually demanded through a speaker for the man in the cabin to turn himself in. Then they drove a large vehicle through the cabin, destroying the walls in an attempt to demolish the house from every side. It was at this point that police alleged that they heard the sound of gunshot, and the destruction subsided. Yet they fervently insist they had nothing to do with the fire that consumed the home, and furthermore insist they know nothing about it. The video from a police car’s dashboard camera directly contradicts this assertion. In it the cabin is not yet on fire, and the commanding officer is heard clearly instructing the others “to go ahead with the burn like we talked about.” Additionally, during a live audio feed broadcast on a local CBS news station, an officer is heard in no unclear terms shouting, “Burn that motherfucker down!” [18] In the end whether Dorner was burned alive or shot in the head with his own bullet, the only thing we know with certainty is that this man’s fascinating and intriguing young life came to a fiery end that day.

In a system fueled by racism, violence, hatred and exploitation for the purpose of enriching a very wealthy few, it is unlikely that we have seen the last person who will be forced to walk down Christopher Dorner’s path. He was not the first nor will he be the last of his kind, as he himself noted, “No one wants to be a cop killer. It was against everything I ever was.” What were it then leading his mind down a path toward chaos and destruction? Another LAPD Officer, using the pseudonym “Crystal”, believes she may have some insight to answering that question. An African American female 20+ year veteran of the LAPD, Crystal granted an exclusive interview to ABC News shortly before the discovery of Dorner’s whereabouts in the snowy mountains, under the condition that her real name not be used. She expressed some empathy for his situation while also strongly condemning what she felt were terrible actions on his part. “I don’t condone what he did. It’s appalling,” she explained, her voice quivering as she wiped tears from her eyes. “But it could have been me…It could have been many other officers that are in this situation as we speak.” Her message for him was that, despite her disagreement with the way he was carrying things out, “there are other officers out there who feel [your] pain.” When asked if she believed the claims made against police department in the Dorner manifesto, she responded that it wasn’t a matter of believing it to her; she had lived it. She felt unease over the fact that what happened to Dorner could just as easily have happened to any other colleague forced to deal with the rampant racism in the department; perhaps it could have even been her. “I’m a female and to think that even I could…,” she said before choking up. “Just the pain, the frustration, the fear. And innocent people’s been hurt by a practice that’s just continued through the department. It’s just not right.” [19] Such conflicted emotions as those exhibited by Crystal, conveying both feelings of disgust for some of Dorner’s more extreme actions while also empathizing with him as a human being whose mind fell victim to the cruel bitterness and unfairness of the world, are what will prevent Chris Dorner from being neatly categorized as a wicked murderer in the public mind. No, he isn’t Django, and he didn’t turn out to be a hero who brought about revenge on his oppressors. Even though Dorner’s story was in many ways just as cinematic as Django, his is far more real, a story in which “good” and “evil” can’t be completely separated from each other. His life, rise and demise exemplify the harm an ungodly corrupt and inhumane system can have on one of its own foot soldiers, when he dares to hold on to his own moral conscience.

Cited Sources:

  1. Miles, Kathleen. (2013, Feb. 8). Christopher Dorner Fans on Facebook, Twitter Call Alleged Cop-killer a ‘Hero’, Citing Police Brutality. The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/08/christopher-dorner-fans-facebook-twitter_n_2647754.html.
  2. Los Angeles Times Letter Bag. (2013, Feb. 16). The Dorner Divide. http://articles.latimes.com/2013/feb/16/opinion/la-le-0216=mailbag-dorner-police-20130216.
  3. Blood, Michael R. (2013, Feb. 9). Christopher Dorner Manifesto Puts LAPD Legacy under a Spotlight. The Associated Press. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/10/christopher-dorner-lapd_n_2658208.html.
  4.  http://ocic.k12.ok.us/pages/uploaded_files/Dred%20Scott%20v.%20Sanford.pdf.
  5. Morrison, Pat. (2013, Feb. 18). A New Christopher Commission for the Chis Dorner Case? Los Angeles Times Op-Ed. http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-should-christopher-dorners-case-prompt-a-new-christopher-commission-20130218,0,3911192.story.
  6. Mather, Kate; Blankstein, Andrew and Willon, Phil. (2013, Feb. 7). Police Shoot Two in Torrance in Search for Ex-LAPD Cop. Los Angeles Times. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2013/02/torrance-shootings.html.
  7. Fox 12 Staff. (2013, Feb. 8). San Diego Police Mistake Local Man for Christopher Dorner. Fox 12 Oregon. http://www.kptv.com/story/21085886/san-diego-police-mistake-portland-man-for-christopher-dorner.
  8. http://articles.latimes.com/2013/feb/16/opinion/la-le-0216=mailbag-dorner-police-20130216.
  9. LA City News Service. (2013, Feb. 23). Memorial Service Set for Monica Quan, Keith Lawrence; Couple Believed to Have Been Killed by Christopher Dorner. Daily News. http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_22654169/memorial-service-set-sunday-monica-quan-keith-lawrence.
  10. CBS Los Angeles. (2013, Feb. 7). Monica and Keith Lawrence Murders; Christopher Dorner, Ex-cop, Sought in Slaying of Basketball Coach, fiancé. http://m.cbsnews.com/storysynopsis.rbml?&pageType=general&catid=57568134&feed_id=999&videofeed=999&nb=splitpage=0.
  11. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2013/02/torrance-shootings.html.
  12. Cleaver, Kathleen. The Fugitive: why has the FBI placed a million dollar bounty on Assata Shakur? AssataShakur.org. http://www.assatashakur.org/cleaver_k.htm.
  13. http://youtu.be/IZplfkVblel. Marc Lamont Hill on CNN Newsroom 2-13-13.
  14. http://youtu.be/NashCC2V-yg. Marc Lamont Hill on FNC O’Reilly 2-14-13.
  15. View the full text of the ‘manifesto’ at http://sickonews.com/read-the-full-anduncut-christopher-dorners-manifesto/.
  16. The Associated Press. (2013, Feb. 14). Chris Dorner Identified: officials positively I.D. charred remains of California ‘cop-killer’. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/14/chris-dorner-identified-positive-id-big-bear_n_2690274.
  17. Willon, Phil; Blankstein, Joel Rubin; Lopez, Robert J.; Stevens, Matt and Mather, Kate. (2013, Feb. 12). Christopher Dorner: police demolish cabin; single gunshot. Los Angeles Times. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2013/02/christopher-dorner-police-demolish-cabin-hear-single-gunshot.html.
  18. McKinley, Kathleen. (2013, Feb. 15). The Curious Case of Chris Dorner. The Houston Chronicle. http://blog.chron.com/texassparkle/2013/the-curious-case-of-chris-dorner.
  19. Ono, David. (2013, Feb. 15). LAPD Insider ‘Crystal’ Can Relate to Chris Dorner, Manifesto. ABC News 7. http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local/los_angeles&id=8995379.  

Author’s Notes:

* I must admit I am one of those who rushed to judgment without fully reading up on the case. But regardless, I do believe he should have been given the right to defend himself in court, but that was never the intention of the law anyway as I discuss later on, officers seemed to be ready to shoot at first sight.

** The Los Angeles Times noted that of the more than 200 letters they received from readers regarding the Chris Dorner manhunt, “it wasn’t the accused killer who drew the most criticism.” Instead it was the LAPD who received the lion’s share of criticism.

^ In reality these investigations are nothing more than a sham. The only purpose the Internal Affairs Investigations serve is to soften the blow of public criticism, making it appear as if they are handling the situation appropriately while the case fades from front page coverage and the forefront of public conscience.

^^ One of the first pages of support which appeared online stared, “This is not a page about supporting the killing of innocent people. It’s supporting fighting back against corrupt cops and bringing to light what they do.”

^* It is my opinion that what many people call “race riots” during the last 20 or 30 years have been in any case more than justified on the part of Black Americans. In the last four years we’ve heard American leaders offer words of praise for the “Arab Spring” for their perceived attempts to overthrow what the U.S. now refers to as “dictatorships”, and yet there has not been a moment in all of U.S. history where Black people weren’t in a constant struggle to survive against the genocidal forces of the U.S. regime. (Also note that before the 1960’s, all “race rioting” involved whites, not Black people, going on massive killing sprees through Black neighborhoods.)

*^ Indeed the LAPD’s patrol units are now roughly only 1/3 white. It should be noted, however, that this change is only superficial in a way. Police officers, regardless of who they were before their employment, all exist to serve as armed defenders of a wealthy establishment. Often times when members of oppressed communities, even if they join the institution in hopes of bringing change to it by their presence, run up against the systematic walls which have been built in and eventually conform to this institutional way of looking at the world. By that I mean people of color are designated enemies to armed agents of the states, regardless of what their own ethnicity, race, or gender may be.

+ WOW. I bet that takes SO much effort. And I bet Dr. King would be just thrilled at being honored with a breakfast in his name every year by the LAPD, while they spit all over his legacy in everyday practice.

++ After they had been shot, the two women were sent to a hospital and were “fine” according to the police. But instead of simply leaving it at that, police when on to show just how narcissistic they often times are when they followed this announcement by stating that “no police officers were injured” in the shooting incident. It’s not clear exactly how they could have been injured in this incident when they were the only ones firing their guns at people.

*+ when they say Pruitt was “in the wrong place, at the wrong time,” essentially what they’re saying is he is a Black man living in America.

+* One of the officers in the car died while the other was severely wounded.

+^ The State of Maryland offered a $12,000 reward for the return of Harriet Tubman. In addition to that, angry slaveholders across the state offered up $40,000 of their own money. So threated they were by Harriet Tubman’s refusal to be another’s property. She would be a free woman or she would die. That’s how strong her determination was.

^+ Assata Shakur was also accused of murdering a police officer, although in reality she was the survivor of police attacks. Her court case followed what she now be recognized as a familiar pattern. The jury of her “peers” was unsurprisingly made up of nothing but white people.

# Anyone vaguely familiar with O’Reilly’s sad excuse for a show will recognize how meaningless accusations of “insensitivity” coming from him are. Of the numerous examples of his blatant insensitivity, one that immediately springs to mind is the appearance in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks of a teenaged son whose father died in the attacks. During the interview, O’Reilly hurled vicious words of abuse at the young man simply because he did not support the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq.

#^ I cannot personally vouch for the “manifesto’s” authenticity or its original origins. Most articles briefly note its being “discovered by police” or on his profile on a social networking site like Facebook.

^# Furthermore, he went on to write, “It is endless the amount of times per week officers arrest an individual, label him a suspect arrestee-defendant and then before arraignment or trial realize that he is innocent based on evidence. You know what they say when they realize an innocent man just had his life turned upside down? ‘I guess he should have stayed at home that day he was discovered walking down the street and matching the suspect’s description. Oh well, he happened to be a dirt-bag anyways.’ Meanwhile the falsely accused is left to pick up his life, get a new family, friends, and sense of self-worth.”

~ None of the reports state whether it was Dorner who untied the couple before he left in their vehicle or if they somehow managed to free themselves.

~* the local Fire Department was specifically ordered to stay away from the burning cabin. In a live interview by telephone on CNN, the cabin’s owner took questions from Anderson Cooper as he watched his watched it submerged in flames. When Cooper asked the owner if he could recall leaving on anything on which possibly could have led to a fire, he answered no.

 

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