Related story: Christopher Dorner's 10 days of terror
Past coverage: Retrace the search for -- and discovery of -- Christopher Dorner from Day 1. View previous articles, photo galleries, videos, timelines and more.
The horde of media vans has left the snow covered mountain community of Big Bear Lake.
One of the biggest manhunts in Southern California history was over. Christopher Jordan Dorner, a disgraced ex-cop who had publicly targeted police and promised open warfare against officers and their families, died in a fiery confrontation with authorities.
This small community of 5,000 at the top of the majestic San Bernardino Mountains is left wondering, asking how this fugitive infiltrated one of their own homes, escaped detection for days then died in a gun battle after releasing two people he'd kept hostage for at least five days.
Their tranquility, shattered by the violence, has returned.
Eight days ago, on Feb. 7, I started work early in the morning, sitting at my desk in an empty newsroom and making my usual round of calls to police and the sheriff's department where I expect to get the typical chatter about what terrible crimes had been committed the night before. This time, the only topics anybody wanted to talk about were Dorner and the shooting of a veteran and rookie police officer in Riverside along with another cop in Corona.
By noon that day, reports started streaming in of a truck burning in the Big Bear Lake area matching the description of Dorner's truck. I confirmed the information with my own sources but the public information officer for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department was absolute in her denial that the truck belonged to Dorner.
Instinct along with facts are the two most important tools that a reporter stores in his tool bag to help tell the whole story. My instincts and my sources matched perfectly.
Doug Andrew SaundersSaunders, 44, covers police and crime for the San Bernardino County Sun, which is of part of the Los Angeles News Group. Prior to joining the Sun, he trained as a public affairs specialist for the U.S Army.
I've been a civilian journalist for two years and I previously worked as public affairs journalist for another two in the military after an injury sidelined me from active duty. Before that I was a weapons expert and had served downrange in Iraq, leaving the safety net of the Forward Operating Base on multiple combat and humanitarian missions. I trust my instincts.
The command post from five jurisdictions and the location of multiple news conferences were within what we now know to be just yards from the condominium where Dorner was holed up.
Frazzled and surrounded by an entourage of deputies, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon would daily give little information to the media about the manhunt. Most of us sympathized. The pressure to find Dorner, the frigid weather, and the fear were palpable. But it's my job to tell a story, to get it right and to pass it on to the public.
Deputies on the ground were my best sources, they shared key details about the truck's broken axelrod, the ammunition in the truck and their belief that Dorner was hiding nearby, in the woods, maybe in one of the cabins.
These guys were motivated. No doubt. They wanted to get Dorner. And we knew it. I decided to watch them, to keep focused on their actions - that would be the tell for finding Dorner.
The community was frightened, worried that an accused cop killer could be lurking in their neighborhoods. Parents had taken part in lockdown drills at their children's schools before, but this time it was real. Schools closed and they had to take their children home.
Even when cleared to return to school some parents refused. They kept their children home.
Residents in this quiet community carried their guns everywhere they went. What if they ran into to Dorner? What then?
People would look directly at me and answer that they would have protected their families with their lives and that they would have had no problem shooting Dorner in order to do that.
After six days of being in the middle of the mountain dragnet around Big Bear Lake with only one day to rest, I became weary of the snow, frustrated with the search, and numb from the tedium of the hunt for the suspected cop killer.
Residents just wanted the media siege to end and their community to return to some kind of normalcy.
I needed to be home in my bed, not one connected to a hotel room. I needed a change of clothes and to shower in my own home. I needed to feel human again.
As I headed home five days after the truck was first identified, about 15 miles down the mountain near Arrowbear, I encountered dozens of local deputies and federal marshals near where Christopher Dorner's mother owns land.
With their assault rifles at the ready, they hunkered down and crept toward a small cabin. Ready for anything.
I thought: "Hell, they've found Dorner. This is big."
Suddenly, they turned around and started running toward me, jumping in their cars along Highway 330. They fired up their engines and began racing back up the mountain, sirens screaming and lights blazing.
I asked a U.S. Marshal if they located the fugitive cop-killer. He looked at me and grinned. In one way saying nothing, but in another way saying everything.
I tailed the convoy of cops close behind, never losing sight of the officers racing to find Dorner.
About 20 miles past Big Bear Lake, the officers pulled over along Highway 38 and Glass Road near the Seven Oaks Boy Scout campground, within a quarter mile of the cabin where Dorner apparently was keeping law enforcement at bay.
It was near where the 33-year-old ex-cop had just engaged deputies with a barrage of gunfire, killing one and injuring another.
Law enforcement personnel who I had followed leaped from their cars with guns out. They set up a command post swiftly.
Then hundreds of SWAT team officers, sheriff's deputies and police officers swooped in - moving in unison, ready for anything.
I was one of two reporters last week to witness the battle between an army of police and a man believed to be Dorner.
Even though I was in the line of sight of Dorner's rampage, there was too much chaos in the battlezone and adrenaline to be afraid.
I heard a loud bang - either from tear gas or a flash-bang grenade. Then silence. Then I saw smoke drifting above the trees.
Soon after the smoke began to billow I heard loud popping like firecrackers.
Then it happened.
One loud distinct gunshot. There was no doubt that this was a bullet leaving the barrel of a rifle.
At the time, it was uncertain where that final shot came from.
Some say SWAT snipers hit their target and others say the angry fugitive took his own life so his would-be captors couldn't.
The thoughts running through my mind were that I hoped no one else had gotten hurt.
The man inside the cabin was accused of killing four innocent people, and I hoped none of the men or women on the mountain trying to catch an escaped killer were injured.
A half-hour later, four fire engines rolled up.
Within an hour, the tell-tale smoke of the burning cabin was gone.
Homicide detectives moved in to investigate and contain the crime scene.
It took authorities two days after the firefight in the forest for authorities to confirm that the charred corpse in the burned-out cabin, was Dorner.
After all the television and radio interviews and stories written by reporters everywhere are done, one question still runs through my mind.
What would make a man, who was committed to protect and to serve, turn into the very evil he fought against?