Dorner's End Rekindles Memories of Another Shootout

Christopher Dorner's final act was taken from the playbook of another notorious figure in L.A. crime history.

I still remember his name. Cinque. Had no idea what it meant, only that it was the name Donald DeFreeze went by in the Symbionese Liberation Army. And that everybody wanted him.

A lot like Christopher Dorner.

Tuesday made me think of how much things have changed since 1974, and also how similar they remain.

Back then, media technology wasn't as advanced. In my town, there were three television channels—four if you included PBS. Yet even without the Internet or cable TV, the SLA was a big, scary deal. It had killed two leaders in the Oakland School District and kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst.

I remember the flames that roared on our television screen and the hail of bullets between the Los Angeles Police Department and the SLA on May 17, 1974. The firefight was shown via one of the first live broadcast hand-held minicams. I was 350 miles away yet had one of the best seats in the house.

Four decades later, technology again had us mesmerized for this modern Old West shootout. We heard gunfire over a cell phone in the remoteness of Big Bear. We saw law enforcement creeping into the forest from the safety of a helicopter. We watched a cabin burn in high definition.

Tuesday was a lot like that day in '74, a moment that becomes indelibly inked in one's memory. Like the North Hollywood shootout, or the pale-by-comparison chase of O.J. Simpson.

The Big Bear gunfight wasn't particularly surprising. After all, did any of us think Christopher Dorner wouldn't be dead at the conclusion of L.A.'s largest manhunt in almost 40 years?

For those of us old enough, we had seen this scenario before. Once Dorner ended up in the cabin, we knew this was about the only way it could end, barring a mad dash and a rain of bullets from the front door.

Six members of the SLA died in the gun battle with the LAPD at 1466 E. 54th Street. About 9,000 rounds were reportedly exchanged over nearly two hours between the good guys and the bad, both firing automatic weapons.

But, ultimately, it was a tear gas canister—or maybe a smoke bomb—that did the dirty work. The house caught fire. The SLA slithered into a crawl space beneath the structure. And, the story goes, Cinque finally put a bullet in his head before burning alive.

Almost 39 years later, Dorner—another man with a manifesto—also found himself in a room with a tear gas canister. Then a blaze.

And finally—apparently—a bullet to escape the heat.


Vince February 14, 2013 at 02:47 AM
Whatever it was, by convenient accident, or by design, at least all the tax money wasted on the hunt, was to be ALL the tax money wasted period when the flames took off---a trial woulda just cost us all a crapload more tax money that could be used on other lameazzed stuff, like FREE Passes on the Mega Dollar Wasted Union Boon System, AKA: The High Speed Rail.. I remember well watching The SLA turned into Crispy Critters--and that was another fortuitous fire.
beaumontdave February 14, 2013 at 03:42 AM
Lynching is a whole different thing. When a house is on fire, you have the option of getting out. Dorner could a come out with his hands up, what would have then happened is all conjecture. Dorner died in the attempt to apprehend him, lynching occurs when you're in custody. This is hardly the end of due process any more then it was in 1974 when I watched the SLA shootout. Dorner had tons of chances to give up prior to running into that cabin, but he didn't, he killed another cop and seriously wounded one more and you feel that burning the cabin violated his rights? I have a hard time understanding why that is some folks first and main concern.
Michael February 14, 2013 at 06:48 AM
I think burning the cabin was absolutely wrong- he was staying put, they should have waited him out, as they NORMALLY do. The police would have shot him if he walked out because they were acting like a posse/mob. They exhibited THE SAME behavior when they SHOT those two women in Torrance- this UTTER LACK of tactics and training, and letting their emotions take over is my concern. A lot of bullets are being taken out of homes in Torrance right now, not to mention the older woman in the hospital. Good thing those LAPD cops were horrible shots or those women would be dead- you are okay with this???
Neil February 14, 2013 at 04:47 PM
Kudos to BeaumontDave. Due process is a choice. Dorner chose to go out in a hail of fire and bullets like he said he would in his crazed manifesto. Ultimately I am sure we will learn he shot himself in the end to avoid the firey death. Why are we so quick to blame police who put down someone that killed 4 officers and showed a willingness to harm others? He got what he deserved.
Vince February 14, 2013 at 11:00 PM
Hell no Michael. I am NOT O.K. with it....near as I figger, any more then TWO rounds fired at a stationary, non-combative target is a waste of expensive ammo, and hence, Taxpayer money---they need more range time methinks.


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