IRVINE, Calif. – Police blocked off a street and stood guard in front of a home in a typically quiet Southern California suburb Sunday, protecting a man they believe has been targeted by a fugitive ex-police officer suspected of killing three people and setting the region on edge by eluding authorities in a sprawling manhunt that has lasted days.
Irvine residents, meanwhile, were left to adjust to life in the midst of a heavy police presence and wonder when things might return to normal.
Authorities have been working to protect dozens of families in the area considered targets based on Christopher Dorner’s Facebook rant against those he held responsible for ending his career with the Los Angeles Police Department five years ago.
Among those the 33-year-old Dorner is suspected of killing is a Riverside police officer, and on the fourth day of the manhunt, authorities put up a $1 million reward for information leading to his capture.
“We will not tolerate this reign of terror,” said LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Just a few hours after the award announcement, a reported Dorner sighting had police surrounding a Los Angeles home improvement store, but police spokesman Gus Villanueva could not immediately say whether the tip was legitimate.
After days without resolution, Dorner’s fugitive status caused concern among some and outright fear among others in Irvine, an upscale community that the FBI consistently ranks among the safest cities in the U.S.
“If he did come around this corner, what could happen? We’re in the crossfire, with the cops right there,” said Irvine resident Joe Palacio, who lives down the street from the home surrounded by authorities protecting a police captain mentioned in Dorner’s posting.
“I do think about where I would put my family,” he said. “Would we call 911? Would we hide in the closet?”
The neighborhood has been flooded with authorities since Wednesday. Residents have seen police helicopters circle and cruisers stake out schools. Some have responded by keeping their children home. Others no longer walk their dogs at night.
Dorner’s background added to the anxiety. The former LAPD officer also served in the Navy, earning a rifle marksman ribbon and a pistol expert medal. He was assigned to a naval undersea warfare unit and various aviation training units, according to military records. In his online post, Dorner vowed to use “every bit of small arms training, demolition, ordnance and survival training I’ve been given” to bring “warfare” to the LAPD and its families.