LOS ANGELES (AFP) - US police paid emotional tributes to a fellow officer on Wednesday, one of four alleged victims of embittered former cop Christopher Dorner, as more details emerged of how he is thought to have died.
Dramatic video footage emerged of Swat teams surrounding a mountain cabin where the 33-year-old barricaded himself, with a barrage of gunfire audible, possibly from exploding ammunition as fire took hold of the cabin.
The Los Angeles Times reported that flammable gas was thrown into the cabin after Dorner, a trained marksman, refused to come out voluntarily, although police would not confirm that.
Human remains was found overnight in the charred debris of the cabin near Big Bear, in the snow-covered mountains some two hours east of Los Angeles, where a six-day manhunt apparently ended in flames Tuesday. LA police lifted a state of alert but kept in place protection for officers and families threatened by Dorner in a chilling online manifesto, in which he vowed "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" against the LAPD.
"We do believe that it is the body of Christopher Dorner, but we don't know for a certainty," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said on CNN. "Until we do, those police officers that were targeted will continue to be protected." The ex LAPD cop went on the run last week after allegedly killing a couple and a policeman and wounding three people in a series of shootings. Another officer was killed and one wounded in a shootout before Tuesday's cabin blaze.
Dorner had threatened to kill more police, "whether on or off duty," in revenge for his 2008 sacking from the force.
A massive manhunt for Dorner centred on Big Bear in the San Bernardino mountains, but there were also sightings reported elsewhere in California and a suggestion that he may have fled to Mexico.
The search went into high gear on Tuesday after a vehicle was reported to have been stolen from a cabin near Big Bear by someone who looked like Dorner, police said.
Dorner was spotted by wildlife patrol officers in a truck matching the stolen car's description. They gave chase, but Dorner then apparently crashed the truck, and took off in a new car after holding up a passing motorist.
The fugitive then doubled back - and opened fire out of his window as he crossed with a wildlife patrol car coming the other way.
"Mr. Dorner was shooting at our game warden and put five to six shells into a fish and game Chevy... our warden escaped uninjured. It was a harrowing moment for him, for sure," said California Fish and Wildlife spokesman Patrick Foy.
A short time later, with multiple cars in pursuit, Dorner abandoned the car and headed off on foot, towards an empty cabin some distance from the road, before engaging in a shootout which killed one officer and wounded another.
Hundreds of officers swarmed into the area. Footage obtained by CBS television showed lines of armed officers sheltering behind vehicles and trees, watching the cabin.
The LA Times said a single shot was heard as police moved in on the cabin, suggesting Dorner may have taken his own life, though that was not confirmed.
On the video, a long barrage of apparent gunfire can be heard, as officers look on, taking occasional aim. As they watch, smoke begins to emerge from the cabin, which was eventually engulfed in flames.
The San Bernardino County sheriff's coroner said forensic means would be used to identify the remains found in the cabin, but it was unclear how long that might take.
"I would not make any assumptions right now," said LAPD Lieutenant Andrew Neiman. "But, again, those types of identifications can be expedited in these circumstances and I'm sure that will be done." On Wednesday, hundreds of fellow officers and Villaraigosa gathered for the funeral of Michael Crain, the policeman killed last week in Riverside, east of Los Angeles.
"Any time one of us is out there and meets a tragic end, it hits us all hard," said LA County Sheriff deputy Mike Reynolds.