Authorities said they were on Friday evening suspending the ground and aerial search in the Big Bear area of Southern California for a disgruntled former LAPD officer suspected of orchestrating a series of revenge killings.
Deputies who had been participating in the methodical search of some 200 mountain cabins and other buildings during the manhunt for Christopher Dorner were coming off the mountain at sundown, according to a press release from the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department.
"Today they've had in excess of 200 cabins and after nightfall, that'll be complete. The search is continuing," San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said at a 4 p.m. news conference.
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"The search will continue tomorrow after they come out of the forest tonight," Bachman said.
Ground efforts were set to resume 7 a.m. Saturday.
The aerial search was suspended because of heavy snowfall that had lasted throughout the day, the department said in its press release.
A dozen additional two-man units were assigned to patrol Big Bear Station, the department said. Residents were advised to open their doors only to people they know or uniformed law enforcement officers.
Ski tracks had been discovered in the area Thursday, but Bachman said they were unrelated to Dorner, the prime suspect in three recent fatal shootings.
Dorner — a fired Los Angeles Police Department officer — allegedly shot and killed an Irvine couple Sunday. He is also accused of shooting at four police officers in two separate incidents early Thursday in Riverside County. One officer was killed and another hospitalized.
The search for Dorner led authorities to the mountainous Big Bear resort area Thursday after the 33-year-old's burned-out Nissan Titan was discovered south of Big Bear Lake.
Search crews used Snowcats — tracked vehicles designed to move on snow — and armored vehicles equipped with tire chains to cover an 8-square-mile search grid, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said at a midday news conference Friday.
"We're methodically searching each building," McMahon said, adding that nothing has been discovered to indicate Dorner remains in the area.
The search in Big Bear and the surrounding area had taken place Friday amid steady snow after overnight temperatures in the low 20s.
"It's extremely dangerous," said McMahon. "Our folks are doing everything we can do catch this guy.
"There has been time to get out of here, but we're not sure if he's left."
Tracks on the ground were discovered leading from Dorner's burned-out vehicle, but McMahon said searchers followed the tracks "until we lost them." The tracks did not appear to lead to a specific area, he added.
Bachman later explained investigators had determined the tracks were from cross-country skiing and not from Dorner.
"It's been extremely intense," said Bachman. "We don't know what he's going to do — we know what he's capable of doing."
The resort area includes many vacation homes that are not occupied year round. The vacant homes will be checked for signs of break-ins.
"He could easily get into a cabin and lay low for weeks, and no one would even know it," visitor Paul Bergmann said.
Schools in Bear Valley Unified and Rim of the World school districts were closed Friday.
"Due to the ongoing law enforcement investigation, and the uncertainty about the whereabouts of Chris Dorner, all schools in the BVUSD will be closed today. However, our district office will remain open," Bear Valley Unified School District said in a statement.
"We were prepared to put police officers in each school, but the school districts chose to close the schools," said McMahon.
Rim of the World schools were closed because of winter weather, according to the district's statement.
Classes also were canceled Friday at Norwalk Christian School in the Los Angeles County city of Norwalk. Dorner attended the K-8 school and mentioned it in his manifesto.
Revenge-Plot Slayings Began in Irvine
Dorner, a former Navy reservist who was fired from the LAPD in 2008, outlined plans to kill law enforcement officers and their family members in a 11,400-word document posted online. In the document, Dorner addressed his reporting of a fellow officer for excessive use of force, and stated he wanted to get his "name back," and that the actions he was taking were his "last resort."
"The attacks will stop when the department states the truth about my innocence," Dorner writes in the manifesto.
Dorner, 33, was identified as a suspect Wednesday in the slayings of Monica Quan, 28, and her fiancé, Keith Lawrence, 27, who were fatally shot Sunday while sitting in their car on the top level of a parking structure in the 2100 block of Scholarship Drive, according to Irvine police. The couple left a Super Bowl party at about 7 p.m. and were found slumped over in their car about 9 p.m.
Quan's father was the first Asian-American to become an LAPD captain, and also worked on the Asian Gang Task Force. In an online manifesto, Dorner repeatedly refers to a Randy Quan as being involved in his 2008 firing.
The search led to Riverside County early Thursday after two LAPD officers — part of a security detail assigned to one of the families mentioned in the Dorner manifesto — encountered Dorner in Corona. He allegedly used a "shoulder-type" to fire on the officers, one of whom suffered a graze wound to the head.
Authorities said they believe Dorner has an arsenal that includes a semi-automatic rifle.
About 20 minutes after the Corona shooting, Dorner allegedly shot two Riverside officers, killing one. The deceased officer was identified as a father with a "young family."
About 20 minutes after the Corona shooting, Dorner allegedly shot two Riverside officers, killing one. The deceased officer was identified as a father and military veteran.
About seven hours later, Dorner's burning pickup was discovered in the Big Bear area.
The pickup was transported to a crime laboratory in San Bernardino. Investigators did not provide details regarding items found in the truck.
The search extended across a wide area of Southern California, including San Diego, where reports prompted at least two false alarms.