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February 14, 2013

Mistakes ultimately ended ex-LA cop's rampage

(Continued)

LOS ANGELES —

After the first two killings, Dorner tried to steal a boat in San Diego and flee to Mexico, but the former Navy veteran tangled a rope in the outboard motor and couldn't start it, authorities said. Then he fled to the Big Bear Lake resort area, where his truck axle broke, stranding him on Feb. 7, just ahead of a heavy snowstorm.

He may have caught a break when he found refuge in a vacant vacation cabin just across the street from a command post established for the hundreds of officers frantically searching for him.

Despite a search that involved helicopters and bloodhounds and officers going door-to-door checking hundreds of cabins, Dorner remained out of sight until he was discovered Tuesday at the cabin near the command post.

San Bernardino County Deputy Chief Steve Kovensky said searchers had not seen any forced entry when they checked it, but he could not provide details about exactly when that check was made.

Authorities, for the most part, looked at cabins boarded up for the winter, said Dan Sforza, assistant chief of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and often didn't enter occupied homes where nothing appeared amiss.

As he fled in the Nissan, Dorner managed to elude authorities for a time by pulling behind two school buses and making a quick turn onto a mountain road. But he crashed the car there and had to steal another.

That's when he confronted Rick Heltebrake, a ranger who takes care of a Boy Scout camp nearby, and took his pickup. Heltebrake was checking the perimeter of the camp for anything out of the ordinary when he saw Dorner emerge from behind some trees. He was dressed in military fatigues and holding a semi-automatic-style rifle.

"I don't want to hurt you. Start walking and take your dog," Heltebrake recalled Dorner saying as he pointed the gun at him. He fled with his 3-year-old Dalmatian, Suni, and immediately called police, who quickly found the suspect again.

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