Does that name sound vaguely familiar? Well, if you reside in Southern California, you probably know his name all too well. The 33-year-old SoCal resident allegedly went on a killing spree beginning two weeks ago on Super Bowl Sunday. He is reported to have killed two Irvine residents, one Riverside police man and another officer just yesterday in the Big Bear Lake area. All the while, he evaded capture by setting his own car ablaze and escaping to remote locations on foot. Sound fake? It’s not.
Chris Dorner, an ex-cop and fugitive, has been in the cross-hairs of the LAPD and other local SoCal law enforcement officers for over two weeks. Dorner, who was released from duty at the LAPD in 2008, appeared to be targeting cops and anyone connected to those he deemed responsible for his termination. In connection with the death of a young lady and her fiance who were the daughter and future son-in-law of the prosecutor who represented him during his termination proceedings, Dorner drafted a 6-page manifesto outlining his case against the LAPD. He claimed that he was wrongfully terminated after racist superiors manipulated a case against him.
Now, this is not your run-of-the-mill case of crazy. This man had been planning his revenge for five years. He had an arsenal of weapons. He had back-up escape plans. He seemed to have all of his bases covered. But, news broke yesterday that law enforcement had him cornered in a cabin near up in Big Bear Lake with no feasible means of escape.
Here is where this breaks from the reality that we all live in. Upon discovering Dorner, a SWAT team used an armored vehicle to break the cabin windows and knock down walls. Deputies then threw pyrotechnic tear gas in an attempt to smoke him out, and lo and behold, a fire broke out (unintentionally of course). Again, this is not fake. This morning, news broke that burned human remains were found in the cabin along with Dorner’s driver’s license and wallet. The remains have yet to be identified but authorities seem confident that they belong to Dorner. I honestly think I saw that in a Bruce Willis movie. Or maybe it was Nicholas Cage.
In any case, several questions here require answers. First, how in the world is law enforcement justified in burning this man alive? If indeed it was Chris Dorner in the cabin (which it actually may not have been), at what point does the allegation of murder legitimize proverbial burning-at-the-stake? In this country, we are afforded the gift of due process. This means that no matter the crime, we all have the constitutional protection of a judge and jury. No one legislative body, governmental leader, or judicial officer has the power to act as judge, jury, and executioner. But, in this case, Dorner was convicted as charged and punished in a capital way. Doesn’t this raise a few red flags?
Second, are there any merits to Dorner’s allegations against law enforcement agencies in the Southland? For a once stable individual to go completely off of the deep end like this, it provokes pause. Could some of his claims be true? If they were, it would in no way justify his actions. But, it could help shine a light on a major issue affecting law enforcement. Many supporters have taken to social media rallying behind Dorner. They cite corruption and a general lack of trust in the LAPD as their predominating factors in standing with Dorner. But, what does it say about this country when we stand with an alleged killer against those who are supposed to “protect and serve”?
Lastly, did all of this have to happen on live television? We have seen car chases, shotgun shootouts, and burning cabins all on the 6 o’clock news. It is truly disturbing when this type of violence becomes the everyday fare in this country. And, while police say they had no intention of burning Chris Dorner alive, it happened anyway. And we all got a front row seat.
In all, motives aside, Chris Dorner’s case will likely spur a few Oscar-worthy flicks in the next few years. Let’s hope it spurs debate on mental health and gun violence in the meantime.