Member-supported news for Southern California
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Support for LAist comes from:

LAPD manhunt: Christopher Dorner's promising career ended with angry manifesto, fugitive status (Lawsuit PDF)

The few photos that have surfaced of fugitive Christopher Jordan Dorner  have this in common: They show him smiling broadly and often wearing a uniform, be it a football jersey, Navy dress whites, camouflage military fatigues or the deep blue of the LAPD.

The images of a patriot and team player are starkly at odds with his current media image — suspected of being a  rogue ex-cop on a murderous tear of revenge against his former colleagues.

Dorner, 33, tells his own story in an 11,000-word essay he posted on Facebook and called his manifesto of last resort. In that rambling valedictory account of his life, he argues that his efforts to do right were thwarted by racism and uncaring institutions.

But other accounts in the public record tell a different story about a man who had a hard time accepting authority and  fitting in with the institutions he so admired.

  • He was fired from the LAPD, accused of lying about a fellow officer.
  • He fought his firing to the appellate court level.
  • He said the dispute ruined his police and military careers.

What's not in dispute is that Dorner is now a wanted man, suspected of three homicides motivated by revenge. He is alleged to have killed Monica Quan and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, in a parking garage near their Irvine home on Feb. 3. Quan is the daughter of attorney Randal Quan, a former Los Angeles Police Department captain who represented Dorner as he fought to keep his police officer job.

Shot at two LAPD officers?

In the early morning hours of Feb. 7,  authorities say, Dorner shot at two LAPD officers who had been assigned to protect a person named in the manifesto, and he shot at two Riverside police officers, killing one. That officer has not been named.

The days-long manhunt for Dorner has become a national and international search. It had been focused on snow-covered trails and vacation homes of the mountain community of Big Bear, where his burned truck was found Thursday, and in San Diego, where a police badge and Dorner's ID were found and where he is suspected of trying to steal an escape boat.

Dorner, who is African-American, was born in 1979 in New York and grew up in Southern California suburban communities of Cerritos, Pico Rivera and La Palma, as well as  in Utah, he said.

Dorner says he went to mostly-white schools, and tells a story of attending Norwalk Christian Elementary School in Norwalk when a kid called him a racially derogatory term. "I struck him hard and fast with a punch and kick," Dorner wrote. The kid reported him, and Dorner was outraged that  the principal lectured him to turn the other cheek as Jesus tells Christians to do when attacked. Both he and the other kid were swatted in punishment.

"How dare you swat me for standing up for my rights for demanding that I be treated as a equal human being?" he wrote in his manifesto. "That day I made a life decision that I will not tolerate racial derogatory terms spoken to me."

He said he was punished in school for similar incidents through junior high school. In high school, he was part of a La Palma Police Department youth program, according to the Los Angeles Times. In his manifesto, Dornan praises the La Palma police chief.

Diverse family

Grady Edwards, a Downey man who said he dated Dorner's sister, Natasha Dorner, said Dorner's mother is biracial, with African-American and Caucasian backgrounds. Members of Dorner's family declined to be interviewed.

Dorner rejects popular culture's portrayals and stereotypes of black men. "I'm not an aspiring rapper, I'm not a gang member, I'm not a dope dealer, I don't have multiple babies momma's. I am an American by choice," he wrote. "I am a son, I am a brother, I am a military service member."

But, he said, attacks on him motivated by racism have ruined him.

"I am a man who has lost complete faith in the system, when the system betrayed, slandered, and libeled me," he wrote. "I lived a good life, and though not a religious man, I always stuck to my own personal code of ethics, ethos...I didn't need the U.S. Navy to instill Honor Courage and Commitment in me, but I thank them for reinforcing it. It's in my DNA."

Dorner attended college briefly at Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks and graduated Southern Utah University with a degree in political science and minor in psychology, according to the Daily News. He played football at SUU.

Dorner appeared to be on a trajectory for success in his early 20s. He joined the Naval Reserve in 2002 with plans to be a military helicopter pilot.  

Assigned as an ensign at the pilot school at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Dorner caught the attention of the local paper, the Enid News & Eagle, when he turned in a bag containing nearly $8,000 in cash to authorities.  The money belonged to the Korean Church of Grace, and the paper quoted Dorner citing the Golden Rule: "It's not so much the integrity, but it was someone else's money. I would hope someone would do that for me."

Did not complete flight school

Dorner did not complete flight school, Zip Upham, a Navy spokesman, told the Tahoe Tribune. Dorner has no record of any civilian pilot license.

Dorner was on military duty from 2002 through 2004. He joined the LAPD in February 2005, but it took a while to become a full police officer. The Los Angeles Times said he attended the LAPD training academy in 2005, but dropped out after shooting himself in the hand. He returned to the academy and graduated in February 2006, court documents said.

But while still on probationary status,  he was sent on another military deployment. Dorner had reached  the Navy rank of lieutenant (equivalent to an Army captain) and was assigned to supervise Mobile Inshore Underwater Warfare Unit 105, which used boats and shore weapons to protect harbors.

While in the Naval Reserve, Dorner received the decorations that typically are given to service members as they move through their career, qualifying as a marksman on the rifle and expert with the pistol. He earned the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrrorism Service medal.

His sole overseas service was during a nine-month deployment, from November 2006 through May 2007, that included five months in the Persian Gulf protecting harbors in Bahrain and Kuwait, defending oil platforms off Iraq and protecting military personnel and ships heading to the war in Afghanistan. Dornan and his unit did not experience combat, said Gary Almeida, a retired Navy commodore, who had Dorner and some 700 other personnel under his command.

Around this time, Dorner was experiencing problems in his personal life. An ex-girlfriend called him "severely emotionally and mentally disturbed" after the two split in 2006, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press.

Dorner had unsuccessfully requested a restraining order against Arianna Williams after she posted his badge number on a website called In the posting, Williams calls Dorner "twisted" and "super paranoid" and warns other women on the website not to date him.

Other press reports say Dorner had a short-lived marriage in April 2007 to a different woman. That woman, who lives in Long Beach, has declined to comment on the relationship.

Returned to the LAPD

When Dorner returned from active duty to the LAPD in July 2007, Dorner was still on probation and assigned to the San Pedro division with field training officer Sgt. Teresa Evans. The key incident that would lead to his firing occurred July 28, 2007, and is described in testimony in Dorner's lawsuit against the LAPD.

Dorner's account is that when he and Evans were struggling with Christopher Gettler, a man they were attempting to subdue and arrest, she kicked him in the chest and face and ordered Dorner not to report the incident when he wrote his report. Dorner did not report it immediately, he said but two weeks later, made the report, triggering an investigation in which Evans denied inappropriate use of force.

Evans testified that she did not kick Gettler, that he had no signs of having been kicked when he was taken to the station to be booked, and that he did not tell the watch commander or doctor that he was kicked in the face.

The cut on his face was from falling into some bushes  and a planter during the struggle. She testified that Dorner wasn't familiar with how to write a use of force report and that he took too long to complete it. Evans and another sergeant revised it three times, she told the court.

On Aug. 9, Evans gave Dorner an evaluation that said he needed to improve in the areas of officer safety, common sense and good judgment. The next day, Dorner reported Evans' alleged kicking of Gettler to an LAPD captain. According to the captain's court testimony, Dorner "expressed remorse that he failed to report what he believed to be misconduct (unnecessary kicks applied to an arrestee) that he witnessed two weeks prior."

The LAPD decided to fire Dorner in September 2008 for lying about the incident, but with Dorner's lawsuit, it took until Feb. 5, 2009, to take effect, according to court documents.

From March to November 2009, Dorner's work with the Naval Reserve took him to Fallon, Nevada for weekend drills once a month at the Fallon Naval Air Station, base spokesman Zip Upham told the Tahoe Tribune.

His work in the Naval Reserve wound down after his firing from the LAPD. (It's not yet clear how his status as a military officer whose duties had included some work with security and intelligence arms of the Navy was dependent on his maintaining a good record in the LAPD.)

The Debrief Military Blog in the Desert Sun newspaper said Dorner was in the individual ready reserve from 2010 to 2013, which is a standby service in which personnel retain their military status, but do not attend drills or other activities. He was separated from the Navy on Feb. 1.

Security guard?

Dorner might also have been working as a security guard during that time — he applied for a state license to carry a gun and work as an armed security guard in 2008, but it expired in 2010.

Not much more has been reported about the years since Dorner's firing from the LAPD.  He appears to have bought and lost through foreclosure at least one property in Las Vegas. Public records show his address at the time as that of his mother's home in La Palma.

But his anger took violent form, police allege, when he shot and killed Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence in an Irvine parking structure.

What is clear is that he channeled his disappointment and anger at losing his police and Navy careers, and his estrangement from his mother and sister, into the manifesto. One of those criticized is Quan's father, Randal Quan, the attorney who represented Dorner in LAPD disciplinary hearings.

It criticizes dozens of police officers and managers, including former Chief Bill Bratton. It thanks former mentors, such as the La Palma police chief who inspired him to a career in law enforcement. It scolds school principals who refused to take his side when he was insulted or got into scrapes.

It sends personal well wishes to various celebrities and others he admires. And it veers into the trivial as he takes a verbal shot at bicyclists who block traffic lanes.

At its core, the manifesto swears revenge on the police officers whose testimony he believes ended his career, and it swears to kill any who come after him. One police officer is already dead, and two others are injured by bullets authorities say were fired by Dornan.

Christopher Jordan Dorner has become the target  of an international manhunt. The end of his story — and whether he lives to face prosecution in the system he once swore to uphold or dies by his own or anothers' violent act — remains to be written.

This post has been updated with new reporting.

Document: Christopher Dorner's Lawsuit against the LAPD: