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THE SITUATION ROOM
Big Bear Schools on Lockdown; Report: Dorner "Pinned Down" In Gunfight; Dorner Barricaded in Cabin
Aired February 12, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's the top of the hour right now, I just want to update our viewers what's going on, for those who -- for our viewers who may just be tuning in.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
We're here in THE SITUATION ROOM, watching what's going on in Southern California right now. A massive, massive manhunt has been underway for days. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world to our breaking news coverage. And we see a lot of activity right now.
Here's what we know. Here's what CNN has independently confirmed. This rogue ex-LAPD police officer, Christopher Dorner, he is now believed to be pinned down in this area, in this Big Bear California mountainous area of Southern California. It's an unfolding situation that has, apparently, involved a shootout with sheriff's deputies. This according to a high-ranking law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation.
We're told and -- this is what sources say -- we're told that Chris Dorner, 33 years old, the rogue LAPD officer who was fired, former -- formerly served in the United States Navy, he had been sighted. He may have been involved in a robbery in the Big Bear area, in a home. We believe that he took -- he took a car, he stole a car, and that he is now allegedly pinned down, pinned down in the area.
I think we have the mayor of the city of Big Bear Lake on the phone right now.
Mayor, are you there?
JAY OBERNOLTE, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF BIG BEAR LAKE: Yes, I am.
BLITZER: Thank you so much for joining us.
I want to make sure I'm pronouncing your name correctly, Jay
Obernolte, is that correct?
OBERNOLTE: It's Obernolte.
BLITZER: Obernolte. OK, thank you, Mayor.
Tell us what you know right now.
What's going on?
OBERNOLTE: Well, as we understand, he's pinned down in an area about eight miles south of the city of Big Bear Lake. So we're very happy that he no longer poses a threat to the residents here.
But we have faith in the ability of the law enforcement community to deal with the situation. Certainly, we're very happy that -- that things are coming to a head, finally.
BLITZER: Well, what do we know about -- what -- what have you been told by authorities about the circumstances that have led to this development?
OBERNOLTE: Well, we have the same information I think you have about the carjacking and the home invasion. Also, we've heard reports of several police officers wounded in an exchange of fire with the suspect. And our thoughts and prayers are certainly with those officers. If they were injured in the defense of our community, we owe them a huge debt of a gratitude.
BLITZER: Because we had heard that two police officers were wounded.
Are you hearing more than two?
OBERNOLTE: No, two is the number that we've heard, also.
BLITZER: Two. OK. Because several sounded more than -- like more than two.
And -- and he -- he is pinned down.
Is he on the move?
Is he in a house?
Do we have any idea, when we say he's pinned down, what that means?
OBERNOLTE: Well, I don't think I have any more recent information than you have. But the area in which the activity is taking place is not a residential area. It's -- it's very rural. So if he is there, I don't think he's in a house. I think he's -- he's seeking some high ground.
BLITZER: So he's out in -- in the forest or whatever, out there some place in the mountains?
OBERNOLTE: That's my understanding.
BLITZER: And is this an area that can -- it can be cordoned off by law enforcement?
In other words, are there a lot of escape routes, a lot of roads?
Or is it pretty -- pretty much contained?
OBERNOLTE: It's pretty -- it's pretty contained. There's been, as you know, a very substantial law enforcement presence up here for the last few days. And they've been very carefully monitoring every entry and exit out of the Big Bear area and the San Bernardino Mountains. So I don't think that there's any conceivable way that he could slip away this time.
BLITZER: What have you been told, Mayor, about his weapons?
How well armed is he?
OBERNOLTE: I don't have any information about that, unfortunately.
BLITZER: We've seen these smoke -- this smoke coming up. I don't know what it is.
Do you have any idea what the smoke has been?
We've been showing our viewers from these aerial pictures smoke coming up.
Do you know what that is?
OBERNOLTE: No, I do not.
BLITZER: That's not you -- but this is an area that is obvious -- this is video that we shot earlier, smoke in the area. That could be nothing. It could be something significant.
Do you know the conditions, by the way, Mayor, of these two police officers that were shot in this exchange of gunfire, we believe, with Christopher Dorner?
OBERNOLTE: Unfortunately, I don't. But I can tell you that our thoughts and prayers are with them. And everyone in my family and everyone in our community is -- is praying for their survival and a speedy recovery.
BLITZER: We're told, by the way -- we just, I'm just being told in my ear, Mayor, that the smoke is sort of a guide from local police -- they're on the ground -- to helicopters where they want the helicopters to focus their attention, because they suspect perhaps -- perhaps that Dorner is in this area. So they're just sending a message down from below so those in police helicopters above can focus in on this area and help in this search. If, in fact, he has gotten out of that stolen vehicle -- we believe he did steal a vehicle, Mayor, and is on the run right now, you know this area well.
Is there a lot of areas where he, potentially, can hide? OBERNOLTE: Well, there are certainly places that he can hide. But we have complete faith in law enforcement personnel up here that he won't be able to hide for long. I think this is the break that we all have been waiting for to get him out in the open and flushed out and no longer in hiding. And my personal opinion is now it's only a matter of time.
BLITZER: But it's also an extremely dangerous situation if he's on the -- on the run right now and he's well armed with ammunition, you know, God forbid, he could still injure or kill law enforcement who are in the search for him.
OBERNOLTE: Yes. And we're certainly hoping that we -- he could be captured or subdued without any more loss of life or injury to law enforcement personnel.
BLITZER: You're the mayor of Big Bear Lake.
What's been the mood over these past several days?
And what's been his connection to this area?
Why do you think he came to your part of Southern California?
OBERNOLTE: Well, we're still wondering why he chose Big Bear. And certainly, he's not the kind of tourist that we want up here.
But our -- our community has been pretty upbeat over the last few days. We're very resilient up here. We're used to living in the mountains. We deal with forest fires and earthquakes and wild animals. And so, you know, this is not something that's going to deter us. And, you know, it's not -- I've been asked very frequently if we -- if there was panic here in our community. And we really have not been panicked. I've been very impressed and happy with the response of our community.
BLITZER: You have put the local schools, though, in a lockdown situation. The kids are all in their classrooms, locked down, is that -- is that right?
OBERNOLTE: Yes, that's true right now. We did that just as a precaution. We did something similar when he was first discovered here in Big Bear.
BLITZER: Because they're supposed to go home around, it's, what, just after 2:00 p.m. out on the West Coast right now. They're supposed to go home pretty soon from school.
Are you going to let them get on those school buses and go home or are you going to keep them in a locked down situation?
OBERNOLTE: Some of us -- yes, you're right. Some of them will be scheduled to get out of school soon. I would imagine that we will do what we did last week, which is not to run the school busses and to have parents come and pick their children up.
But I don't know that for certain. I'm not sure that that decision has been made.
So if any of the parents are listening, I would encourage them to contact the school for further instructions.
BLITZER: Which would be wise to do. I'm sure a lot of parents are nervous in watching what's going on.
Anything else, Mayor, you want to share with our viewers before I let you go back to work?
OBERNOLTE: Oh, just the number one thing would be how thankful we are for the service of the law enforcement personnel that are up here. We recognize that they have taken time away from their busy lives and their schedules and their families. And they're putting themselves in harm's way, as the events today have illustrated. And we're just so thankful and grateful that they're up here protecting us.
BLITZER: Before I let you go, Mayor, Joe Johns has a quick question for you, as well.
Joe, go ahead.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's just one question. Looking at this terrain and the pictures of it, you have to wonder whether there are a lot of hiking trails and/or horse trails, that type of thing, that people would be able to maneuver between and among the trees and the rows.
Are there a lot of hiking trails and horse trails up there where a guy like this might be able to get away?
OBERNOLTE: Well, that certain area, there are a few. But that's not where they're concentrated because it's eight miles from the community and the -- most of the trails are concentrated closer here to Big Bear. But there are a few.
But I have complete faith in the law enforcement effort at this point. They -- with the aerial assets that they have staging out of the airport here in Big Bear City and all of the boots that they have on the ground, it would be, I would think -- and this is a completely a non-expert opinion -- but I think it would be highly unlikely that he would be able to get away.
BLITZER: We're told it's a very, very active situation unfolding, Mayor, right now.
We will still stay in close touch with you.
Jay Obernolte is the mayor of the city of Big Bear Lake.
He's got his hands full right now.
Mayor, thanks very much for joining us.
OBERNOLTE: Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: Let's go back to Casey Wian, who's watching what's going on.
He's in Los Angeles.
What else are you learning, Casey?
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the mayor talked about the air assets that are being deployed right now in the search for Dorner and the effort to subdue him. The FAA has just posted a notice called a TFR, a temporary flight restrictions, for a three mile area around the community of Big Bear. That is to provide for safe law enforcement activities.
They will not confirm for the record that it is related to the Dorner situation, but it's pretty clear that that's what it must be.
So there are air assets that are being deployed right now to try to find him and stop him.
Also, my colleague, photojournalist Tom Larsen, just tells me that just south of here, about a block, he saw several command type vehicles leaving LAPD headquarters in a very rapid manner. So it seems clear that the LAPD brass is going to be on its way to that Big Bear area. And they'll be there in a couple of hours, I would imagine -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And I hope they resolve this before it gets dark, because, obviously, at that point, it's going to become even more complicated than it already is.
Casey, hold on for a moment.
Tom Fuentes, our CNN contributor, and former assistant FBI director, is joining us now, as well.
What does it means when we authorities say that this individual we believe to be Christopher Dorner, Tom, is pinned down?
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Wolf, that term is -- it commonly means that he's not running anymore, that he's not in a position of flight, that they've got him either trapped in a home or in some physical location that he's not free to go. And that would mean that he's contained. Now that doesn't mean he's in custody. Obviously, they'll say that, when he's in custody. But it means that he's no longer free to be running loose.
BLITZER: This obviously also, Tom, remains a very, very dangerous situation, if, in fact, he's shot and injured -- wounded two more police officers as part of this exchange that's occurred within the past hour or so. He's obviously still very well-armed and he's a marksman.
So this a -- an extremely dangerous situation.
FUENTES: Yes, it is. And your covering here with the media helicopter showing that there's a number of buildings, shacks, residences all through this area here, I mean it is sparsely populated, but it's not unpopulated. So he could be in one of those buildings right now, holding a family hostage, and basically setting himself up as a hostage taker and barricaded subject, which makes this a very, very difficult situation and it could cause this to even become a protracted crisis, as opposed to ending in a shootout if they've got him in a place where he's -- it's just him by himself.
BLITZER: And if he's -- if he knows this area well and has been there on many occasions, as we suspect he does, that's why he went there to begin with, it becomes even more complicated.
FUENTES: Well, it would have been complicated up to this point. But if he, in fact, is, as described, pinned down, that means that his knowledge of the terrain doesn't matter anymore. He's not going anywhere. That's normally the term, you know, that you would use, that he's pinned down, he's located, he's not going anyway. Whether that's in a building or whether he's in a, you know, ravine or, you know, a trench or some other defensive position, we don't know that right now.
But the term means, usually -- or usually, as it's used, it means that he's no longer running. They've got him located. They've got him contained, let's say, and not in a position to go run away again and escape again. That doesn't mean that he is not in somebody's home holding hostages.
BLITZER: We know, Tom, that federal, local, state law enforcement, a lot of people are involved in this manhunt.
How do they coordinate who does what?
FUENTES: Well, the coordination is very difficult. In this case, the federal assistance is provided only on the assumption that he would have left California and either gone to another state or left the country. And that's why the Marshall's Service had obtained an unlawful flight to avoid prosecution warrants, which basically create a federal warrant to make a local fugitive a federal fugitive.
But now that he's pinned down, as they're saying, in California, then this reverts back so that the local police are in charge, and, in this case, the San Bernardino Sheriff's Office will have the lead in trying to apprehend him, with the assistance from the other agencies, state, county and local -- I mean, federal.
But again, the local police have the charges, the murder charges that have been placed in the other cities and it's a local matter.
BLITZER: And based on your experience, Tom -- and you're retired from the FBI -- who, in a situation like this, let's say you have a marksman, a former Navy -- a Navy marksman, a former LAPD cop who's well trained, experienced, 33 years old, a big guy, who has the most experience?
Who's best trained to find someone like this?
Would it be local, state, federal?
What do you think?
FUENTES: All of the above. I mean all of the agencies have extensive training for their SWAT teams and other tactical units, the negotiating teams. So, really, you know, the expertise is at all levels. The FBI would certainly have it. The Marshalls would certainly have it. The Los Angeles Police, San Bernardino County, Riverside Police, if he had been located there, the other departments that have been named, would have tactical units capable of taking this guy on.
So in this case, I don't think there's a worry, in that sense, that it has to be one federal agency or one state or local agency versus another. You know, if they've got him in some kind of contained situation, he's going to be -- you know, it's going to be very difficult. It's going to depend, though, whether they learn that he's alone, and, therefore, is just a barricaded subject, which will be much easier to deal with, or whether he has hostages. And that's a much more difficult thing, as we saw in the case in Alabama last week.
BLITZER: And those are great questions. We don't have the answers. The only thing we do know, based on our reporting from local law enforcement authorities, is that he is, quote, "pinned down" in this area, in the Big Bear mountainous area outside of Los Angeles.
Chris Cuomo, our newest CNN anchor is joining us in our conversation and our reporting of what's going on.
Clearly, Chris, this is a very tense moment in the Big Bear area. Two police officers have been shot and injured over the past hour or so as this exchange is going on.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Now, this has ever layer of a tragic situation when you're dealing with it from a law enforcement perspective. One, we have history. We know what this man has done before in similar situations. He's killed officers. He shot others. They understand his tactical response.
The second layer is after their history is their acknowledgment of current risk. They don't know if this robbery or burglary in the house where the suspect was trying to access a vehicle, tie up a couple reportedly, we don't know yet. And then lastly, his state of mind, Wolf, we don't know his state of mind. For all his tactical response, we're not sure. And we're going to have to get more report in from what's going out in the field right now.
BLITZER: And then we're going to get some more right. Chris Welch is in Big Bear. He's getting more information. Chris, what else are you learning?
VOICE OF CHRIS WELCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. We literally just received a new press release from the sheriff's department here in San Bernardino. I'm just kind of going to go through this. It sort of outlines the timeline of what they say happened here. They first received a call of a stolen vehicle and the party who reported the stolen vehicle said the suspect took their vehicle and described him as looking very similar to Christopher Dorner.
They say deputies immediately began a search on the ground and from the air for this vehicle. They say the vehicle was located at Highway 38 and Glass Road. I'm not sure if we can put up some kind of map to show where that is exactly or if we got a map up already. The suspect fled into the forest and barricaded himself inside a cabin, they say.
A short time later, there was an exchange of gun fire between law enforcement and the suspect. They're adding that the sheriff's S.W.A.T. team is on scene and they're reconfirming that two law enforcement officers are being air lifted through a local hospital with unknown injuries. They're not saying the -- those two officers injuries at this point.
They're saying they'll continue to update us, but this again from the sheriff's department here in San Bernardino.
BLITZER: So, basically, what we know right now is that, as we speak, Chris, he is inside, he's barricaded himself inside a cabin and we believe the sheriff's S.W.A.T. team, I suppose, has surrounded this cabin right now and that's what's going on?
WELCH: Yes. Spokesperson from the public information office said that they're not positive whether he's inside the house or outside the house when they say they have him "pinned down." That's the phrase we've been using here on air. But he is, they add, he is still armed. They're not entirely sure how heavily armed, but he is still armed.
They also say that they're unsure of the condition of a woman who I believe they're saying this is the woman who called in, or excuse me, this information is apparently no good anywhere else. I will retract what I just said. We don't have any information about the woman, any kind of woman at the house at this point.
But I will say that I want to add that the smoke that we've been talking about, I think, we've already sort of established this on our own, but the smoke is not a fire, but it is from a smoke bomb that was detonated to show other law enforcement official where the scene is located, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by for a moment. Chris is here. Chris Cuomo is watching what's going on together with me. Chris, this is clearly a very, very dangerous moment right now.
CUOMO: It is. And there's a big plus-minus in the situation like this. You have him in a contained area, but you know he has weapons, tactical know how, unstable mind, big plus-minus for law enforcement, someone who understands this situation very well, of course. Former police commissioner out in Los Angeles, Bill Bratton, he's on the phone with us now.
Commissioner, thank you very much for joining us. What's your understanding of this type of situation, the risk involved and what procedures must be in place?
VOICE OF WILLIAM BRATTON, FORMER LAPD COMMISSION: The good news is they have him in a contained situation versus over the last week not even knowing where he was in a very large geographic area. So, that certainly is a big head start for law enforcement. It's still daylight out there. So, it gives them an opportunity to visually see the area that they have to control and deal with.
And time is now on their side, while he, based on your reports and others, that he's continuing to shoot at them, that where he is contained that officer's safety is going to be first and foremost, he has already shot and killed one officer, wounded four others. They don't want any other additional officers hurt if they can help it.
If he does not have hostages and I'm not sure of anything at all to that effect that makes the tactical or strategic decision-making, much were in favor of the police in terms of time on their side to do this in a very calculated way.
CUOMO: Well, that's the big consideration, right? Once you figure out the hostages, commissioner, you're able to assess how much time is on your side, right? Because if they can determine that he's alone there, there's really no rush to do anything. Is that fair?
BRATTON: Exactly, that the idea being that, you know, even if he is shooting out of them, that gives them opportunity to -- they basically shoot back at him, you know, based on where the gun fire is coming from. Having had a lot of experience in L.A. with these types of barricaded person situations, they can go on for hours upon hours, that they are going to do everything in their power not to put any officer's lives at risk unnecessarily to get this character.
BLITZER: Commissioner, it's Wolf Blitzer. We're watching what's going on here in the SITUATION ROOM as well. We are now showing our viewers videotape of the aerial area after law enforcement asked us no longer to show live pictures because that could help the suspect in this particular escape, potentially, escape. So, with our viewers now, we're seeing is videotape.
We're no longer going to show the live pictures because we were asked to do so. That could endanger this entire operation. What does that say to you? I don't remember a time when law enforcement has asked the television networks, the local affiliates, the national broadcast to stop by aerial shots, if you will, live pictures because it could endanger the operation. What does that say to you, commissioner?
BRATTON: Well, it's not unprecedented. We've done that in the past in L.A., certainly during my time as chief where the area's usually overflowing with news helicopters. No. This is all about the speculation that he has access to a television in that cabin and they don't want to take the chance of effectively giving away to the target of the operation moves they're making.
He is a trained police officer. He has the additional benefit of military training. So, he is well aware of some of the moves that are going to be made against him, and they're just looking to lessen the visibility he has relative to those moves.
So, you should appreciate, I'm glad that the media is seemingly complying with that request because you don't want to be involved and needlessly putting additional officers' lives at risk as they begin surrounding that cabin and begin closing in on this individual.
BLITZER: And here's the precise request we got from the san Bernardino sheriff, Commissioner Sheriff McMahon, has asked that all the helicopters pull back or leave the area of the "barricaded suspect," keywords, "barricaded suspect." Gun fire is being exchanged between law enforcement and the suspect, and then, the San Bernardino sheriff says your personnel are in danger could contribute as well to officer safety on the ground.
And then, he thanks all the news media for cooperation. So, that's a significant request. And we've learned that this individual, the suspect we believe to be Christopher Dorner, is barricaded in this area. So, obviously, law enforcement, commissioner, they know where he is. So, they just wait him out? Is that what you're suggesting?
BRATTON: Well, in terms of each one of these situations has different characteristics to it. First off, appreciate that the San Bernardino sheriff will be in charge of this operation while the incident involved in Los Angeles Police Department and began with the activities directed against them. They would be in a support role up there, that they were offering support assistance, but the operation is under the control of the local sheriff.
So, it needs to be that understanding. In the sense of him actively shooting at them, they will understandably attempt to position their people, their snipers to basically return that fire appropriately when they're able to identify where he is shooting from when he shoots. Other than that, if he ceases to shoot at them, they will not be shooting at him, unless, they get the sniper opportunity.
But the idea is time is now on their side. There is no need to unnecessarily risk additional officers while they now have him, apparently, in a very contained situation where he went from being the hunted to now he's -- went from the hunter where he is now the hunted and they have run him to ground. And that's a good news. What was a national search is now focused, apparently, on a cabin in Bear Mountain, California.
CUOMO: And of course, commissioner, we're dealing with some other built in information also. I have learned from you in the past that we don't want to give too much attention to the suspects. We don't want to glorify them. We don't want to go into what their alleged message is, but there is an element here of what Dorner put out. You were mentioned in it.
He had specific goal, intentions. Forget about his reasons for those goals and intentions, but how does that play into this situation to you, personally, but also, tactically, knowing where his head as in terms of who's out there looking for him.
BRATTON: Well, the reality is, this individual is a murderer. I don't care what his motivations are. He is still in a position to kill public safety officers, but this time, based on the news reports, that there doesn't appear to be civilian lives at risk. It's now him and law enforcement.
And so, a lot of the hoopla over the last several days on Facebook and people coming out of the wood work and supporting him, first and foremost, we have to remember this is a non-dangerous felon that has killed multiple, people, is attempting even as we're speaking to kill more. So, any sympathy toward this individual, I'm sorry, I have none. And I can't imagine why anybody else would. No matter what his in his own mind his motivations are.
We can work those out after this is resolved. But, allowing that to color any part of this discussion of the state of the situation, I think, is unfortunate. There is no motivation for going out and murdering innocents and murdering police officers. I'm sorry, I just -- I see no justification, and certainly no justification in terms of his motives.
BLITZER: Well said, indeed commissioner. We are now being told also, by the way, that in addition to this request from the local sheriff, the San Bernardino sheriff, that media helicopters pulled back, leave the area of this barricaded suspect. We are now being told that the FAA, itself, has implemented what's being described as a temporary flight restriction around the Big Bear area. So, they clearly don't want helicopters or small planes or anyone else flying over.
They want law enforcement to be flying over, checking what's going on, but they don't want the media, for example, to be interfering potentially with this operation, commissioner. So -- and you say you've heard of this before, this kind of activity, these kinds of requests from local authorities as well as from the FAA?
BRATTON: That's correct. For example, in Los Angeles, for example, occurred in Los Angeles for example during every event at Dodgers Stadium, there's going to be an air restriction over the stadium that's a counterterrorism situation, but something else to consider with this Wolf that in addition to the concerns of officer safety and their tactical operations on the ground, with the gun fire that this individual is capable of projecting out of that cabin as well as that might come from the law enforcement community, that there is the potential risk of air ships in the air being struck by that, and this gentleman is, by all accounts, a skilled marksman.
And if he still has long gun capabilities, there would be nothing to preclude him from -- the opportunity of taking shots at your choppers or police officer choppers in the sky. So, there's a safety element to this, a safety concern for your air ships as well as a tactical concern about not broadcasting what's going on the ground as far as the police operations.
BLITZER: Obviously a very, very dangerous situation. Commissioner, hold off for a moment if you can because Brian Todd is getting more information as well. What else are you picking up, Brian? BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I just spoke with Chief Kurt Ellington (ph). He is a district chief of the U.S. Marshal Service. He is in Los Angeles right now, monitoring the situation on the ground and communicating with officers there. He confirms that the suspect, Christopher Dorner, is holed up in a cabin in the town of Mentone, California. Spelled M-E-N-T-O-N-E, California.
Now, Chief Ellington did give me the cross streets and a fairly exact location. We are electing not to give that information right now, but Chief Kurt Ellington confirms that Christopher Doner is holed up in a cabin in the town of Mentone, California. I asked the chief if he knows if he's got anyone in there with him and Chief Ellington did not have that information.
He did confirm that Dorner is believed to have wounded two police officers. Chief Ellington does not know their condition, but he said that Dorner is "contained in a cabin." That's the phrase he used. He is contained a cabin with law enforcement officers on the scene, Wolf. We'll try to get more information in just a bit.
BLITZER: All right. Brian, stand by. Chris, you know, if he's got hostages inside, that makes the situation clearly a lot more dangerous?
CUOMO: It changes everything, and obviously, it's not just a media event, it's a very active investigation. That's why you have to give the sheriff's helicopters their room. There is a safety consideration, as Commissioner Bratton was saying, if they're long guns. But, you have to believe on the ground. They've assessed the situation very differently.
We just don't know because we're not their priorities. So, we're going to have to pick at the edges and rightly so here for a little bit on more prospective on what may or may not be going on. Let's go to Randi Kaye. She's out in Los Angeles, closer to the situation than we are -- Randi.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good afternoon to you. I can tell you that as this news started to unfold, I was just in the middle of an interview with a former LAPD psychologist and we were talking about the Dorner case, of course, for a story. And, as I started to leave, he said to me this is the end for him. No question this is the end and this is what he wanted.
Those were the words from this former LAPD psychiatrist -- psychologist. He also told me that it was a big mistake for Christopher Dorner, he believed, to stay in Big Bear mountain. It was a big mistake for him to burn his truck there as well. The question is, as we discussed, why didn't he harm this family that he was with?
And the answer from this psychologist was, that he has his very specific targets and he certainly wasn't going to go after them, possibly he needed them to care for him. We don't know what kind of conditions he's in. Based on the conditions out there, we were up there earlier in the week, it was down to 19 degrees. And without a truck, without any transportation, who knows what it might have been like for him to travel around there.
What's interesting though is that the search has been expanding as far as going to more remote areas of Big Bear mountain for him in the last few days, but they have been cutting back on law enforcement. They have gone from 125 officers searching for Christopher Dorner, to just 30 officers as of yesterday. But I can tell you, the fact that he's contained as some have said, certainly will bring great relief to the 50 or so families that are currently being protected by law enforcement here. Those are of course the members of the law enforcement that have been named in his manifesto.
So, with 50 families under protection, a great sense of relief. We know that even police who ride on motorcycles are now being told to get in cars because it wasn't safe for them. One police, Captain Crisp, didn't even leave his home, hasn't left his home since this manhunt began. He has a wife and six children. So, this is a very difficult time for them. So certainly some relief.
CUOMO: All right, Randi. Thank you. It's not over yet, but thank you for the perspective. Wolf, is there more?
Yes, we're getting more information and I want Bill Bratton, the former LAPD police chief, the former NYPD commissioner as well to stand by if you can, Commissioner, because Casey Wian is out in the area getting more information. What else are you learning, Casey?
WIAN: Well, Wolf, we have looked at this news release from the San Bernardino County sheriff's office where they describe where Dorner allegedly stole that vehicle and then where the vehicle was found, the address where he stole that vehicle, 1200 Club View in the Big Bear area, which looking on a map is very, very close to the Big Bear Ski Resort. So we don't know if it was from a resident or someone who was perhaps parked and skiing.
The vehicle was found 27 miles away heading down the mountain at Highway 38 and Glass Road and was just mentioned on the air. He is now expected -- said to be holed up in a cabin in the Mentone area. That is all down the mountain, so it is very clear that what he was trying to do is get down that mountain and escape into the greater basin of southern California into the San Bernardino area, and who knows where from beyond there. But he actually went between the time that he stole that vehicle and the vehicle was found 27 miles around the peak of the mountain there at Big Bear, wolf.
BLITZER: Hold on for a moment, because I want Bill Bratton to explain something to us, if you have a second. Bill Bratton, the former LAPD police chief. a bunker buster unit, a SWAT team supposedly, is approaching the area, what exactly does that mean?
I don't know if Bill Bratton is still with us, the former LAPD chief. But it obviously is a source of concern because there are other reports, Chris Cuomo, that there may be hostages in this situation as well.
CUOMO: In these developing situations, what happens, Wolf, is they bring all available assets that could potentially be useful. I've been out with bunker buster SWAT units before. They work independently of each other. It's what it sounds like: they bring heavy equipment that can come up and literally blow into spaces. That would be the obvious type of procedure if you wind up having this man alone.
However, San Bernardino police are coming out with the fact that there may be hostages. In these kind of situations, you must err on the side of safety because the ultimate value is protection of human life. And remember, the pictures you're seeing now from earlier because we're not showing live images at the request of local stories in case there is CNN is being watched at this time. And we're going to heed that and the FAA restriction.
But to paint the picture of how we got to this point, we're going to play some sound from KCBS, a local reporter who was at the scene when this investigation was in its formative stages. Let's listen to that right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down! (INAUDIBLE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: That's a harrowing sound. Obviously somewhat confusing for us because we don't understand. What do we know from what we are hearing there right now. There was a lot of gunfire. Who was firing at whom? You can't know. You have to assume that there were volleys of gun fire going around. We know that officers were hit. We know they have been air lifted to help them to get to emergency medical services.
But you have to remember, you're in a remote situation. Tactics and advantages and procedures all come into play here because why? Because you have weather conditions, you have visibility issues. If this man is now barricaded, clearly that came later on because there was a volley of gunfire, so there must have been exposure by one or both parties.
But if nothing else, it gives us this sense of the emergency of this situation. This a man again, no matter how diluted his ideas of fairness may be, he is trained. He does have an arsenal of at least 30 weapons, many semi-automatic. And more importantly, he's spent a lot of time learning how to use them. So now fueled with what's obviously his own delusions, he's gone into the woods and the officers are trying to keep him at bay.
The question is now, is he alone, Wolf? If he is, they're going to deal with this one way. If he has people in there, it's very, very different.
BLITZER: If he's got hostages, and I just want to recap for viewers who may be just tuning in right now, this all went down within the past two hours or so. The San Bernardino sheriff's department told us that about 12:00 p.m. local time out in California, deputies were working in the Big Bear area and they were searching for Christopher Dorner. They responded to a report of a stolen vehicle, in the 1200 block of Club View Drive. The reporting party said the suspect took their vehicle, described the suspect as looking very similar to Christopher Dorner.
The deputies immediately began a search on the ground and from the air for the vehicle. The vehicle was then located, Highway 38 and Glass Road. The suspect fled into the forest, barricaded himself inside a cabin. Short time later, there was an exchange between law enforcement and the suspect. Sheriff's SWAT teams are on the scene. Two law enforcement officers, according to the San Bernardino sheriff's department are being air lifted to a local hospital with unknown injuries, and they say more information will be coming.
So we know he's barricaded in a cabin. We don't know who is inside, if anyone is inside that cabin. We do know that there are a lot of SWAT teams and other personnel, Chris, on the ground.
CUOMO: You know, I just got on e-mail from someone who works in tactical warfare, and he makes a very instructive point. They train for how to deal with these types of situations in law enforcement, but not necessarily against one of their own. They assume a level of ignorance. They assume a level of being haphazard in your reactions.
This is very different, because again, while the man's mind may be well diseased, he knows they know what that do in this situation. And he is obviously very capable with the weapon. So again, as Commissioner Bratton was telling us, time in on their side if they know where he is. And they can calm down. In terms of the psychology of this man and what he may be thinking or not, I think at this point it's irrelevant, Wolf. All we want is for him to be stopped.
BLITZER: Yes. And then as far as the local law enforcement, state and federal law enforcement, they see Christopher Dorner as a killer. He has already killed, they say, three people. They want this stopped. Two more officers have been injured, have been wounded in this latest exchange of gun fire.
We're told that there will be an LAPD news conference right at the top of the hour in about 20 minutes or so. And we'll of course have live coverage of that. Joe Johns is watching what's going on as well.
JOHNS: Wolf, if he is pinned down in this house, the next step would be to try to establish communication with him to start some kind of negotiation. To see if he has any demands, if there's anything they can do to get him to come out of that building.
So, the question now will be, if he's in that building by himself, can you get some type of a microphone, a radio, a telephone, something, some way to communicate with him and at least open up the discussion of getting him to surrender.
BLITZER: And Chris, we have to assume, if he is barricaded in a cabin there, in this mountainous area, Big Bear Lake, outside of Los Angeles, about a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, we assume he has access to local television or cable television, he can watch what's going on right now. That's why authorities wanted to -- wanted all the media helicopters basically to go away.
CUOMO: Sure. I mean look, at the end of the day -- we're looking at a picture right now of the area where this is taking place. Regardless of what the current activity, he has gotten into a situation where he can be controlled. The only outstanding issue that matters to anyone is, is there anybody inside with him? Of course, establishing parlay would be important if there are hostages inside. If not, they now know where this man is, and that's all that matters. Because time is on their side as long as there aren't other lives at risk. No reason to engage too quickly.
BLITZER: Casey Wian is watching what's going on. Chris Welch is in Big Bear.
Chris, let me go to you. Do you have any information about hostages - Chris is not there. He's working some sources. But let me ask Casey. Do you know, has there been any definitive word about whether or not there's hostages?
WIAN: I don't have any definitive word, Wolf, about that. It's clearly a possibility, given the fact that there's, you know, this exchange of gun fire and he's holed up somewhere, but I don't have any confirmation of that. Perhaps in less than 20 minutes -- there was a regularly scheduled news conference that we understand is still going to take place here at LAPD headquarters. That news conference obviously going to have a much different tone than it would have.
Because as we have been reporting at 12:30 or so local time, 3:30 Eastern time, there was a report of a stolen vehicle in the Big Bear area. We now know that that location, very near the entrance, parking lot of the Big Bear Ski Resort. That vehicle was tied to Christopher Dorner. The vehicle was found 27 miles down the mountain toward the more populated areas of southern California. Dorner now said to be holed up in a residence further down the mountain.
We are not showing live pictures of that residence because law enforcement has asked us not to, both for the safety of the helicopters that were in the area and for the safety of law enforcement officers. Because just as of a few minutes ago, that advisory saying gunshots were still being exchanged, Wolf.
BLITZER: Casey, we're just getting this in from "The Los Angeles Times," very disturbing word that is he is holed up in a cabin. He's been in this cabin, he's barricaded in this cabin and he is holding a couple hostage. Very disturbing information, just coming in from "The Los Angeles Times," saying there is a couple being held hostage in this cabin.
Tom Fuentes, you're a former assistant FBI director. If in fact he is holding a couple hostage -- and CNN has not independently confirmed that, this is a report coming from "The Los Angeles Times," -- it obviously makes this situation extremely dangerous.
TOM FUENTES, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR (on the phone): That's true, Wolf. It's worst-case scenario if he has hostages because that means he can fire out of that cabin but the police can't fire back unless they have an absolute clear shot by a sniper. And he's going to be too smart to expose himself that way. And in fact he could use the people as human shields and maybe try to force one of them to stick their head out a door or window and take a shot at a police officer by mistake or by accident.
So, this is extremely difficult. The problem here will be how can they get communication to him. If that cabin does not already have telephone or any kind of communication access out, that means the police will have to physically try to approach it to bring a phone to him or some communication method to him. So, otherwise they're going to have to hide behind a tree and be shouting at each other to try to see what he wants or what he wants to do next.
So, it's a very difficult situation. We're not going to get a lot of information until there's some type of communication established between negotiators and him.
CUOMO: Well, Mr. Fuentes, this is Chris Cuomo. Thank you for joining us. God forbid there are hostages in this cabin with this man. We have to hope against hope that at least he knows that he only stays alive as long as they do. Hopefully enough of his mind still works for him to understand that. If there's any gross indication that he takes the lives of the people who may or may not be with him -- hopefully there is no one with him -- that is the end of his lifeline as well.
If he is alone -- let me ask you this, Mr. Fuentes -- the kind of severe, immediate, go-with-malice type tactics in a situation like this using instrumentation like your flash bangs to stun who's inside, you can do this procedurally very quickly if you know he's alone, yes?
FUENTES: Yes. Yes, that's why I said a barricade of a subject is a much easier scenario to resolve because you're in charge then, you have all of the assets to determine know long you're going to fool around with hi. You'll give him a chance to surrender. And then after you'll start using other methods to try to either smoke him out or betting him out of there. And you don't have to play any more games with him, frankly. But --
CUOMO: So that means one of two more things are going on right now, because right now we're assuming it's in a paused state while they're waiting for action there. It means one of two things. One, they don't have the assets for an immediate response right now, or they're waiting and if they're waiting, obviously, that gives cause to the concern that they're waiting for good reason which would be that he's not alone. We're trying to independently verify that.
CUOMO: But it's hard to read into a situation like this because you can make lots of different decisions on the ground especially when you know where the suspect is. Yes?
FUENTES: Yes. The sheriff can have every asset at his disposal right this minute. That he would need to do a rescue if that came to that. But he's not going to use them or deploy him in any way if it's possibly going to endanger other innocent people so that's the difficulty here. They have to determine positively that he doesn't have someone else in that cabin with him. If he doesn't and they can prove it, determine it then it's a much easier situation to resolve and police are going to win, right?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's assume, Tom, that Dorner is barricaded in this cabin. We have no idea whether or not he does have a couple that's being held hostage, or whatever, but let's assume he does have access to the news media, he can listen to reports where the radio, television or whatever, that further complicates the situation. You've been on the -- on the law enforcement side of this when a lot of people are reporting live on what's going on.
What's your thinking about this?
FUENTES: Well, we've had that gnarling situation. I mean, the assumption is that he probably can hear the media, that was the assumption in the Dykes case in Alabama last week, it's the assumption in many of these hostage situations that someone is in a location to monitor what the media are doing. In this case you would have the FAA issue an order for all non-law enforcement helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, any other aircraft to be out of the air space devoted entirely to law enforcement so you won't have any further live pictures of the scene from media being broadcast.
You know, at that point, even if he's watching it, you know, if people like me that's around the air are going to watch what we say, every detail of what's tactically possible wouldn't be revealed except in this case you're talking about a trained police officer. So if we have a hostage taker who's not familiar with law enforcement tactics, particularly in a crisis response mode, it's much -- you know, it's much more important to not reveal that this is what the negotiators do, this is what the SWAT team might do.
You don't want to conduct an education for someone who's ignorant. But in this case you have a trained law enforcement officer, trained by one of the best police departments in the world, and military experience on top of that, so I think that it's not going to be as critical of the media saying -- he'll know that yes, there's negotiators that are going to be there trying to establish communication. Yes, there's going to be snipers deployed to try to have continuous observation of that cabin and when it gets dark they'll be using night vision equipment.
SWAT teams will be prepared to assault that cabin. Once it's determined the -- you know, that it would be possible to do it, if they want to pursue that route. So I think that all of the avenues that are available in a tactical response like this, he would be aware of what could be done, what he won't know is what's going to be done and what the sheriff has decided to do as the on-scene commander at this particular location.
BLITZER: And so basically what we do know right now is that he's barricaded in this cabin, we don't know if there are hostages inside, but we do know a lot of law enforcement is in the -- is in the area and presumably surrounded, won't be able to get out. This is going to continue, though, under an abundance of caution, isn't that right, Tom?
FUENTES: That's correct. Until they determine that's there no hostages, it has to do. And this could be a long time situation, while that's in progress, so that's what trying to -- that's what they're trying to determine now, and hopefully they'll be able to determine it, you know, without too much time going by so that it can be resolved.
CUOMO: Let's take a step back as we're waiting for there to be a development here and hopefully so that we can learn a new development here, hopefully it's a positive one. We don't really know what's going on on the ground but we do know what happened before all of this. And I think it's important because there has been a -- thankfully little debate about what the merit of this man's ultimate grievance were.
But here's what is a beautiful message for those out there. We know that when we investigated what happened with this man, when he lost the job, it turned out that what he blathered about online in his so-called manifesto that had really manifested no true ideals, that there was no cause to believe what he had said. And we now know it was something else. He thought he would be able to certain things, Wolf.
He thought that he would be able to outsmart and he used a lot of grandiose language. Well, now he is holed up like an animal in a small cabin, because in truth, he was not able to do anything but hide, and not even that well. So hopefully the message in that is certainly this man is nothing like what he presented himself to be. The best-case scenario now is that he is alone in this cabin, and if he has one rational sense left in his mind, he will give himself up to authorities.
So we know all of that, that led us to this point. Because there's been so much intrigue surrounding this man and who he is and why this happened. And so many in law enforcement, including Mr. Fuentes, have made a very instructive point. When you say their name, when you talk about their motivations, it gives credence and it gives a validity to somebody who doesn't really deserve it, like the commissioner said, Bill Bratton, he's nothing but a murder. And he killed some of the people we value most, those who protect and serve.
And at least now, for those tuning in, as you see through the stanchions of the helicopter there, we're going around an area in northern California where a suspect, who's been trying to kill police officers, shot some today, is now holed up in a cabin. We believe this has been his hideout. We do not know if he is alone in the cabin. That is the major concern at this time. We know a blended team of local, state, and federal authorities are on this scene.
That's the good news. There are a lot of assets in place. And they believe they have the man who they've been hunting for for days pinned down in a cabin. But, again, we do not know the situation inside that house. We do know there's been a lot of gunfire with a -- from a man who we believe, through authorities, has an arsenal at his disposal. So, Wolf, for right now, we just have to watch.
BLITZER: And, Tom Fuentes, we have to assume the worst-case scenario. We don't know. We don't know whether or not there are hostages being held inside, but from the perspective of law enforcement, you have to assume the worst case, right?
FUENTES: Exactly. You assume the worst-case. And if I could add something else that makes this very unique for U.S. law enforcement, I ran organized crime investigations all over the world and we've had the mafia in other countries, the cartels in Latin America make a common practice to kill family members of law enforcement or officials of the government or media.
This is something new here. This whole entire incident started with him murdering Michelle Quan and her fiance, the daughter of a police officer or a retired Los Angeles police officer. That's not quite unprecedented, but it's very, very rare to have something like that happen, where the family members of law enforcement officials almost become the primary target to terrorize the police and to make a point.
We've just not had that in this country. And we've had some of the worst gangsters on the face of the earth operate in the United States and be tracked down by a number of law enforcement agencies, at every level, and it's very rare that we've ever had law enforcement families under siege like in this case.
BLITZER: Anderson Cooper is joining us in this continuing coverage, the search for this Christopher Dorner, this former LAPD rogue cop, former Navy sailor, a marksman, if you will.
We believe he is barricaded, Anderson, in a cabin. We don't know if there are hostages inside, but we do know lots of law enforcement, including SWAT teams, have surrounded this entire area.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and there's been a lot of, you know, belief over the last couple of days, there's really no other way that this could have ended, the fact that he is still in this area is a sign that law enforcement was absolutely right in concentrating in this area. As you know, his truck was last seen burned out several days ago. There hadn't been any word from him for several days, as some had thought maybe he froze to death out in the woods.
But it seems clear, and there's an "L.A. Times" report now, that he had actually taken a couple of hostage, previously, in a cabin somewhere, which is kind of one of the theories that had been out there for a long time, that he must have gotten shelter somewhere and basically been holed up, watching television, perhaps, just kind of biding his time, making his plans.
It does seem -- and you can correct me if I'm wrong on this, but it does seem this is a different house than the one he had been holed up in, according to the "L.A. Times," that after this shoot-out with law enforcement that happens just a short time ago, he basically had to gain access to another house, and that's really why we don't know if there are any hostages in this -- in this location.
BLITZER: And in that shoot-out, Anderson, two police officers were wounded and they are being Medivac right now to a hospital. We don't know their condition. So obviously that underscores how dangerous the situation continues to be.
COOPER: Yes, a SWAT team definitely en route if you can see. It looks like some sort of armor personnel carrier earlier. But this whole entire area is obviously now being cordoned off, a lot of units being moved into place around this, and, you know, it was a very active gunfight from what we heard.
BLITZER: And Chris Cuomo is here.
Chris, we're showing our viewers video taken earlier, we're not showing live pictures anymore. Remind our viewers why we've decided to do that.
CUOMO: Well, for very basic reason. Law enforcement reached out to us, Anderson, right before you got here saying two things. One, we need to have our police helicopters close to the scene, don't get in our way. Secondarily, you could be fired upon. If he does have long small weapons capability, you could be hit at that range. So for safety reasons move. The FAA picked up on that warning.
The media immediately started to heed it, anyway, to move away, at the request of law enforcement, and at that point, we stopped using a live feed, no matter what it says on your screen, we're using things that are earlier, because we want to give the law enforcement their space. We're waiting on reports of what happens. Obviously, our knowledge is very secondary to the authorities doing what they have to do in this situation, which is hopefully making this stop as soon as possible.
COOPER: There's certainly also the concern that if he is in a -- in a house, he's able to access television, you don't want a situation where he's able to watch live the events and what law enforcement is doing. It's a situation we saw during the Munich hostage crisis during the Olympics, where the hostage takers actually were watching the television coverage, the live television coverage, were able to see authorities moving in. So this is -- these are all taped pictures.
BLITZER: And the announcement from the FAA announcing what they call these temporary flight restrictions. They've cited special security reasons. No flying around, small planes, big planes, helicopters, nothing in the area right now. That's why we're showing our viewers the videotape that was taken earlier.
Joining us on the phone is Kurt Madden from the Bear Valley Unified School District.
And, Mr. Madden, thanks very much for coming in. What can you tell us about what's going on in Bear Valley?
KURT MADDEN, BEAR VALLEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: Well, our small little pristine community ski resort has really been on edge over the past few days. I got word of some information, you know, and my contacts at about 12:30 this afternoon that there was a problem in a community called Moonridge, just a few miles, you know, from our district office, and typically, we hear sirens and things go by, because when we have accidents on the mountains with skiers or snowboarders, that's very common, but this for some reason just caught my ear, and it was just a matter of 60 seconds later we got a text message, there was a problem in Moonridge.
So we decided to go ahead and put our schools that were near Moonridge into a lockdown, and we had a high school, an elementary school, and a continuation school. And as we learned more about the chase, we have a small elementary school, probably about 35 miles away. They are still on lock down right now because they're the school that's in closest proximity of where the suspect currently is.
BLITZER: So in other words the parents can't even come to the schools to take their children out? I assume there are no school buses that are operating. And I just want to remind our viewers that right at the top of the hour, LAPD is going to have an update, a news conference to update us on what we know.
But, go ahead, Mr. Madden. Tell us about whether or not the parents could get their kids and bring them home.
MADDEN: Well, what we decided at about 2:15 our time, which is about 45 minutes ago, based on the information we have from law enforcement, that our schools were really out of danger. So we lifted the lockdowns at our school on the hill that our parents could pick up and our buses went out to get our students.
At the same time, our small school down in this area, which is about 10 miles away, they're still on a lockdown. And keep in mind that the roads are all closed, so you really can't do a lot of transporting down there, but we're in contact with that school and they're in good shape. We've got -- they're very calm, they're very experienced, they're very, very tough people, and they're going to do everything they can to keep our students safe.
BLITZER: Well, good luck over there, Kurt Madden, from the Bear Valley Unified School District. Good luck to everyone in that area. Let's hope this situation is resolved very, very quickly and without any more injuries or death.
Anderson, we're getting ready for a news conference.
COOPER: Yes. That's right, Wolf. Chris and I, we're waiting for a news conference to take place, we believe right at the top of the hour, about one minute or so from now.
Los Angeles Police are going to give what information they can at this point. Be very curious to hear exactly what the situation is, if they know the exact cabin that he's in, what the situation is inside that cabin, if they're aware whether or not there are hostages. And that's really the key question at this moment right now. Are there other people inside that house, that would really determine how police react and how police interact with him, whether they're able to or have been able to establish some sort of contact with him, if he's in that house.
I mean, if they're -- if they've been engaged in an active firefight, obviously, they want to try to engage in some sort of contact, but that can be a very risky proposition.
BLITZER: Let me just reset. We're approaching the top of the hour. We're following the breaking news out of Southern California right now. Bear Valley, the mountain area, about a two-hour drive outside of Los Angeles. We're watching the hunt, the massive manhunt underway and it's reaching a critical moment right now. We're told that this individual, the suspect, Christopher Dorner is inside a cabin. He has barricaded.