Rick Heltebrake is one of two parties that have filed claims for the reward posted during the manhunt for ex-police officer Christopher Dorner. Heltebrake was carjacked by Dorner before the murderous ex-officer’s final standoff. He is pictured here on Feb. 15, 2013, surveying the burned-out Big Bear-area cabin where Dorner’s remains were found after a police standoff.
The Peace Officers Research Association of California became the second entity to reject paying its share of the reward pot issued during the manhunt for a murderous ex-police officer, union president Ron Cottingham said Friday.
The 64,000-member union joins the city of Riverside in California, which on Monday pulled its $100,000 from the $1.2 million reward saying conditions were not met. Payout of the reward was contingent on Christopher Dorner’s arrest and conviction, a spokeswoman for the city told NBC4.
The Peace Officers Research Association had previously offered $50,000 to the reward.
After killing two law enforcement agents and a newly engaged couple in a revenge-fueled shooting spree, Dorner died in an apparent suicide on Feb. 12 during a standoff with authorities and cabin burning near Big Bear.
With little debate or discussion, the Riverside City Council voted unanimously to post the reward during the frenzied manhunt, even after it was told the fugitive's demise was likely to be announced soon.
Riverside city leaders defended their decision to vote after Dorner didn't emerge from the burning cabin following a gunfight with law enforcement.
There were conflicting reports the night of the vote about whether Dorner's body had been found, said Councilman Mike Gardner.
"There was never an intent to authorize a reward knowing it wouldn't be paid," Gardner said.
After Riverside pulled its slice of the reward, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Charlie Beck said they want to the see the reward paid.
Cobbled together quickly as the manhunt for Dorner went cold on a snowy mountain where the ex-officer abandoned his truck, the reward was hastily announced over a weekend by multiple police chiefs and mayors.
It was never formally put in writing and was offered before public boards were able to authorize the money or set conditions for payment. Officials are expected to announce the payout by mid-April.
A lawyer for the couple who called police after Dorner tied them up in their Big Bear Lake condominium and fled in their car shortly before his death accused Riverside of reneging on an offer that was never genuinely made.
"The mayor knew full well that he wasn't going to be convicted when he authorized the resolution," attorney Kirk Hallam said.
"It is completely disingenuous for him to stand up there now and say, ‘Oh we weren't legally authorized to issue this.’ Really? That's not what you said when you offered the ordinance to the City Council after the facts were already known."
Hallam, who represents Karen and Jim Reynolds, said his clients deserve the money because they put police on Dorner's trail. Despite being bound and gagged, and told not to alert police, Karen Reynolds managed to call 911 to report that Dorner had fled in their purple SUV.
During the ensuing pursuit, Dorner crashed their SUV and carjacked a pickup truck from Rick Heltebrake, who also called authorities. He, too, filed a claim for the reward.
Hallam said Riverside should consider reviewing a state law that provides for the governor to pay rewards in police officers' killings even if the arrest or conviction is "rendered impossible by an intervening event, including but not limited to, the death of the person during a pursuit by law enforcement."
Frank Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said the city of Riverside can legally not pay the reward, but it could hurt the city in the future.
"The problem is going to come the next time Riverside wants to get the public's attention by offering a reward, because the issue is really the community's long-term credibility," Zimring said.
While the city of Riverside has pulled its reward, the county specifically changed its reward language to assure it wasn't only symbolic.
The Riverside County Board of Supervisors met the day after Dorner's death to authorize its $100,000 contribution. After some debate, the board voted unanimously to approve the amount and to change the language from "arrest and conviction" to "apprehension."
"The bottom line is if these individuals were helpful to get law enforcement to put this issue to an end ... then it should be offered," Supervisor John Tavaglione said during the meeting.