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Mystery of fugitive ex-LAPD cop takes another violent turn

ChrisDornerNavy-600NEAR BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. (CNN) – Law enforcement officials were on hold late last night outside of a cabin near Big Bear Lake, Calif., where a suspect believed to be fugitive ex-Los Angeles police officer Christopher Jordan Dorner had engaged them in a gunfight.

A SWAT team earlier had stormed the cabin where a suspect believed to be Dorner had holed up after a fatal shootout with sheriff's deputies, a source familiar with the operation told CNN.

At one point Tuesday evening, Multiple law enforcement sources told CNN contributor Tom Fuentes that law enforcement on the scene pulled a dead body out of the burning house and were conducting a forensic exam to identify the body. That report later was labeled false and that the burning cabin still was too hot to enter.

cabin-600The cabin caught fire after police detonated smoke devices inside the cabin, the source said. Aerial images showed heavy smoke and flames coming from a structure.

One of the two sheriff's deputies wounded in the shootout earlier Tuesday with the suspect died, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon told reporters at California's Loma Linda University Medical Center. The other deputy was in surgery "but he should be fine," McMahon said.

The wounded officers had been taken to the Loma Linda facility with "unknown injuries," after a shots were exchanged with a man at a police roadblock near Big Bear Lake, the sheriff's office said earlier in a statement.

The day's confrontations began when a California Fish and Wildlife officer was driving down a highway near Big Bear and he recognized a man fitting the description of Dorner – target of a massive manhunt since last week – driving a vehicle in the other direction. The wildlife officer chased the vehicle and the driver opened fire on the officer before abandoning the vehicle, a statement from the agency said.

The officer's vehicle was hit numerous times, the statement said. While not specifically referring to the officer involved in the shootout, the statement said the agency's officers "are all safe and accounted for."

Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department, said the suspect fled into the woods then into the cabin where he fired at the approaching deputies and holed up through the afternoon, still exchanging gunfire with authorities.

Later as the fire burned, with authorities staying back, she said authorities weren't 100 percent sure the suspect was still in the cabin.

Authorities have been searching for Dorner since he was named as the suspect in the shooting deaths February 3 of the daughter of his police union representative and her fiance. Police also say he killed one officer in Riverside, California, and wounded two others last Thursday.

The violent spree, authorities say, was part of Dorner's campaign of vigilante justice for what he believes was his unfair termination.

The city of Los Angeles put up a $1 million reward on Sunday for information leading to Dorner's arrest and conviction. The search for the 270-pound, 6-foot Dorner has focused on the Big Bear Lake area, where authorities say his burning truck was discovered last week.

"Until we can confirm that he's either there or he's not there, this investigation has to stick with what we know and what we know is that we found evidence that he was there," Los Angeles police spokesman Lt. Andy Neiman Neiman said.

LAPD reopens case that led to Dorner's dismissal

Over the weekend, LAPD said it was reopening the case that resulted in his termination.

Dorner accused his training officer of kicking a mentally ill man during an arrest in 2007. The LAPD ruled the complaint unfounded and kicked Dorner off the force for filing a false complaint.

Dorner challenged his firing in court and lost.

In a manifesto released last week, Dorner blamed racism and corruption in the LAPD for his termination and vowed to wage "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" against LAPD officers and their families. He called it a "last resort" to clear his name and strike back at a department he says mistreated him.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck had a different term for it Sunday.

"This is an act – and make no mistake about it – of domestic terrorism," he told reporters Sunday. "This is a man who has targeted those that we entrust to protect the public. His actions cannot go unanswered."

Beck said he was not reopening the investigation involving Dorner to "appease a murderer" but out of concern that Dorner's allegations will resurrect a painful part of the department's history.

For years, the LAPD was dogged by complaints of racism and corruption. In 1965 and 1992, the city was rocked by racial riots that were sparked, in part, by claims of police racism and brutality.

(CNN's Miguel Marquez Paul Vercammen, Stan Wilson, Casey Wian, Kathleen Johnston, Alan Duke, Matt Smith, Chelsea J. Carter, Michael Martinez and Holly Yan contributed to this report.)

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