Fugitive ex cop 'pinned down' in US mountain shootout

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Fugitive former US cop and triple murder suspect Christopher Dorner was pinned down on Tuesday after exchanging gunfire with police near a California ski resort, officials and reports said.

Two police officers were injured, local KTLA 5 television reported, while CNN said he barricaded himself in a cabin in a snowbound forest near the town of Big Bear, two hours' drive east of Los Angeles.

Broadcaster KTLA 5 said some 40 heavily-armed SWAT officers had been dispatched to the area, where Dorner's pick-up truck was found last week. There was no immediate confirmation of this from police, but Big Bear mayor Jay Obernolte said it was only a question of time before Dorner was caught.

"I think this is the break that we have all been waiting for to get him flushed out and no longer in hiding. My opinion is that it's only a matter of time," he told CNN.

"We have faith in law enforcement personnel up here that he won't be able to hide for long," he said. "We're certainly hoping that he can be captured or subdued without any more loss of life or injury to law enforcement personnel." The Riverside County Sheriff's Department said Dorner was possibly involved in a robbery in which a couple was tied up and the suspect fled in a truck.

There was no official confirmation that the suspect in this incident was 33-year-old Dorner, but the Los Angeles Times cited a law enforcement official as saying he was involved in a shooting after he tried to burglarise a home.

KTLA 5 reported that smoke grenades had been used, while schools in Big Bear were on lockdown. Roads in the area had been closed off, the channel said.

Live television pictures showed law enforcement cars stopped on a mountain road, with at least one officer crouching behind a vehicle, pointing a gun into the woods beside the road.

They also showed smoke drifting up from a driveway next to a road.

There was no official confirmation of the reported incident, which came on the sixth day of a massive manhunt for Dorner, accused of killing three people and threatening to kill more police officers.

Dorner, who posted a chilling online manifesto threatening to kill police and their families over his 2008 sacking, was charged on Monday over the killing of officer Michael Crain, a 34-year-old father of two.

The six-foot (1.80-meter) tall naval reservist is accused of killing a couple on Feb 3, then ambushing two policemen last Thursday, including Crain. He also injured another officer, before going on the run.

The LA Police Department (LAPD) and other law enforcement agencies in southern California have tightened security around their facilities since Dorner went on the run last week.

The disgruntled ex-cop threatened to murder police and their families in his rambling manifesto, pledging to "bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform whether on or off duty." Some 50 LAPD officers and families have been placed under special protection. The couple murdered two weeks ago included the daughter of a former LAPD officer linked to the fugitive ex-cop's dismissal.