"Everybody speculated that it was a false report, and we confirmed that," said Lt. Mike Madden. "It appeared to be a fight between neighbors, and what better way than to say Dorner is there?"
Only a few apartments were emptied, with the rest just allowed to remain inside for a few pre-dawn hours, Madden said.
Several residents said they had been forced to exit through windows and were still upset at the perceived rudeness from police, though.
"I was scared," said Yalanda Garza, 32. "We were out there for two hours. They made us empty our trunk, everything. ... They didn't even say 'sorry it turned out to be nothing.'"
Garza did smile when she remembered her son's reaction.
"He said it was like real-life 'Call of Duty,'" she said.
Rian Pittman, 23, said there was nothing funny about the treatment of the mostly black residents of the complex - treatment that reminded him of the racism he said motivated Christopher Dorner to kill three people.
Robert Johnson, 34, overheard and said nothing justified those killings and Dorner had to be stopped.
"He's playing with (police), and they have to do what they have to do," Johnson said. "Of course he's not here. Of course he wasn't in Big Bear. He's somewhere laughing.
Sunday was the fourth day of a massive manhunt for Dorner, who is suspected of killing three people and aiming to kill more police.
"Tensions are high," Madden said.
Police do not intend to file charges for a false report, he said.