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Amid storm, Calif. manhunt focuses on mountain

Killing suspect’s tracks lost on frozen ground

Members of the California Highway Patrol searched a truck for suspect Christopher Dorner on Friday in Big Bear Lake.

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

Members of the California Highway Patrol searched a truck for suspect Christopher Dorner on Friday in Big Bear Lake.

BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. — Law enforcement officers working in falling snow searched a Southern California mountain Friday for the former Los Angeles police officer accused of carrying out a killing spree because he felt he was unfairly fired from his job.

‘‘We’re going to continue searching until either we discover that he left the mountain or we find him, one of the two,’’ San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said at a midmorning news conference.  

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More than 100 officers from various agencies were searching for Christopher Dorner in the Big Bear Lake region of the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles.

SWAT teams were driven up snowbound roads on Snowcat tractors and armored personnel carriers equipped with snow chains, he said, but helicopters with heat-sensing technology were grounded because of the storm. Visibility was low as clouds shrouded Big Bear’s towering, forested peaks.

A search of homes in the Big Bear community failed to find Dorner, and the search was concentrating farther back in the mountains, near and above the place where his burnt-out pickup truck was found on Thursday, the sheriff said.

Officers followed what appeared to be Dorner’s tracks from the truck but lost them on the frozen ground, McMahon said. ‘‘There’s a lot of cabins up there that are abandoned. We want to make sure that he didn’t find a place to hide out for the night,’’ he said.

A couple of reported sightings of Dorner didn’t pan out and ‘‘we have no information that he’s come down into the community at all,’’ McMahon said.

‘Is he on foot up on the mountain? Is he down the mountain? We don’t know.’

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In Los Angeles, the head of the Police Department’s detective bureau said all options in the search were being kept open.

‘‘Here’s the bottom line: We don’t know if he’s on foot or not,’’ said Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese. ‘‘Is he on foot up on the mountain? Is he down the mountain? We don’t know.’’

In San Diego County, up to 16 sheriff’s deputies spent the night surrounding and searching a rural home after a hoaxer reported Dorner was there. There were people at home but Dorner wasn’t one of them, said Lieutenant Jason Rothlein. Investigators have a pretty good idea who made the call and will seek criminal charges, he said.

Though the focus is on the resort area, the search for Dorner, 33, stretches across California, Nevada, Arizona, and northern Mexico. LAPD officers are on edge because Dorner promised in rambling writings to bring ‘‘warfare’’ to police and their families.

Dorner, also a former Naval reservist and onetime college running back, was fired from the LAPD years ago. Albanese said it is not known why the violence is occurring now.

The saga began Sunday night, when Monica Quan, the daughter of a former Los Angeles police captain, and her fiance Keith Lawrence were found shot in their car at a parking structure at their condominium in Irvine. Quan was an assistant women’s basketball coach at Cal State Fullerton.

The following morning in National City, near San Diego, some of Dorner’s belongings, including police equipment and paperwork with names related to the LAPD, were found in a trash bin.

The LAPD was notified of the find, and two days later informed Irvine police of an angry manifesto written by a former officer and posted on Facebook. Among those named as targets was Quan’s father, Randal Quan, the former LAPD captain who became an attorney who represented Dorner in his unsuccessful attempts to keep the police job he lost in 2008 for making false statements.

On Wednesday night, Irvine and Los Angeles police announced they were searching for Dorner, declaring him armed and ‘‘extremely dangerous.’’ Hours later, they learned they were all too correct.

Two LAPD officers en route to provide security to one of Dorner’s possible targets were flagged down by a resident who reported seeing the suspect early Thursday at a gas station in Corona. The officers then followed a pickup truck until it stopped. The driver, believed to be Dorner, got out and fired a rifle, police said. A bullet grazed an officer’s head.

Later, two officers on routine patrol in neighboring Riverside were ambushed at a stoplight by a motorist who drove up next to them and opened fire with a rifle. One died and the other was seriously wounded but was expected to survive, said Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz.

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