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LAPD report: Firing of Officer Christopher Dorner was sound and just

Ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner. (13920)
Ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The city Police Commission today accepted the results of a Los Angeles Police Department report that concluded the firing of Officer Christopher Dorner, who went on a crime spree that left four people dead, was “sound and just.”

Dorner, 33, contended in an online manifesto that he had been railroaded out of the department. He also leveled allegations of racism against the LAPD, which he claimed “has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days.”

After hearing a presentation on the department’s report on Dorner’s firing, Commissioner John Mack said he was satisfied with its findings, but said he was not “naive” enough to think some people might be critical about how the review was conducted and its findings.

“We’ve come a long way,” Mack said. “You can do all kinds of wonderful things. All you need is one setback, one incident — there were some very, very serious and wild allegations included in that manifesto.”

Mack said the department underwent a “health self-examination” by reviewing the Dorner case.

Commissioner Rafael Bernardino said he “shudders” to think of the possibility that Dorner might have stayed with the department.

Dorner died Feb. 12 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the midst of a gunfight with law enforcement in the Big Bear area, where he was holed up in a cabin that caught fire during the battle.

During the February manhunt for Dorner, Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck ordered a review of Dorner’s case to determine if his dismissal was justified and the case properly handled, saying he wanted to “reassure the public that their police department is transparent and fair in all the things we do.”

Gerald Chaleff, special assistant for constitutional policing, concluded in his report that Dorner “fabricated allegations against his training officer, and later, against his peers and superiors.”

“The decision to terminate Dorner was sound and just,” Chaleff wrote.

“Dorner’s documented proclivity to concoct allegations and evidence to advance his personal agenda support the conclusion that Dorner was rightfully terminated from the LAPD.”

In response to the report’s release, Beck said, “All of us recognize that as a department we are not perfect; nonetheless, this report shows that the discharge of Christopher Dorner was factually and legally the right decision.”

On Feb. 3, Dorner — a former U.S. Navy lieutenant — gunned down the daughter and future son-in-law of the ex-police captain who represented him at his Board of Rights hearing, according to police. The bodies of 28-year-old Monica Quan and her fiance, 27-year-old USC public safety officer Keith Lawrence, were found in Lawrence’s car in the parking structure of their Irvine condominium building.

The next day, Dorner posted the 6,000-word manifesto on Facebook, vowing to kill named LAPD officers and their families.

Dorner was later involved in a shootout with Los Angeles police guarding an officer’s home in Corona, leaving one officer with a graze wound to the head. About 20 minutes later, he fired on a pair of Riverside police officers stopped at a red light, killing Officer Michael Crain, 34, and wounding the other, police said.

After being traced to Big Bear, Dorner engaged in a firefight with law enforcement authorities while holed up in a cabin. San Bernardino County sheriff’s Detective Jeremiah MacKay was fatally shot during the gun battle.

Dorner was hired by the LAPD in February 2005, and he was officially terminated in January 2009.

In his report, Chaleff noted that it took Dorner 13 months to graduate from the LAPD police academy, rather than the usual six months, “due to a variety of interruptions involving injuries, including a hand injury resulting from a negligent discharge of his weapon.”

In 2007, Dorner alleged that his training officer had kicked a suspect during an arrest on July 28, 2007, according to Chaleff’s report. The allegations were made nearly two weeks after the arrest, and were made “after Dorner was notified by his training officer that he was in jeopardy of receiving an unsatisfactory rating report.”

Chaleff noted that Dorner never mentioned the alleged kicks to a supervisor who responded to the scene of the arrest, or to his watch commander or to medical staff at the jail who treated the arrested suspect. Dorner also did not include the kicks in his arrest report.

Although Dorner offered a variety of reasons why he did not mention the kicks earlier — ranging from fear of retaliation to uncertainty about whether he was expected to include it in his report — “there was no physical evidence that the kicks actually occurred,” Chaleff wrote.

“None of the three independent eyewitnesses to the use of force reported observing a kick, or anything inappropriate,” he wrote. “The training officer denied kicking the arrestee. The only testimony provided in support of Dorner’s testimony and allegations of these kicks was given by the arrestee and his father. The Board of Rights that heard Dorner’s case, however, determined that neither man’s testimony could be relied upon, as the arrestee was unable to provide coherent responses to basic questions due to his limited mental capacity, and the arrestee’s father was not a witness to the use of force and his conflicting testimony lacked credibility.”

Dorner’s firing was upheld by the Office of the Inspector General, Los Angeles Superior Court and state Court of Appeals.