Christopher Dorner cause of death: 'A single gunshot wound to the head'

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The cause of death for alleged murderer and ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner was "a single gunshot wound to the head," Captain Kevin Lacy of the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department's Coroner Division said in a 4 p.m. news conference Friday.

"As the fire continued to spread, when about probably a quarter of the cabin was on fire, we heard a distinct single gunshot come from inside the house," Captain Gregg Herbert with the Specialized Enforcement Division.

The bullet sounded like it came from a different type of weapon than what was being used to fire at officers, Herbert said. The Sheriff's Department wasn't prepared to say definitively whether the wound was self-inflicted, but indications are that it was, Lacy said.

"Christopher Dorner's reign of terror is over," said Sheriff John McMahon. "The manhunt is officially over, and we can all begin the healing process."

McMahon responded to questions about recordings of scanner traffic with someone who may have been with the department sounding excited about the cabin being burnt down. He said they have no idea who made those comments, but that they are being looked into and will be dealt with properly.

"I don't believe that we made any mistakes, at this point," McMahon said.

McMahon added that they believe that it is someone who was away from the tactical team, and that, "Our deputy sheriffs and the other officers present are human beings. ... Sometimes, because we're humans, we say things that may or may not be appropriate."

"Numerous assault weapons were recovered, as well as numerous semiautomatic handguns," said Sergeant Trevis Newport, Homicide Detail. Those weapons included a sniper rifle, high-capacity rifle magazines, cans of tear gas and smoke, a weapons vest, a military-style kevlar helmet and 10 silencers. The gas canisters were found both on Dorner's body and at the locations Dorner occupied, Newport said.

McMahon responded to questions about the search that initially failed to find Dorner, saying that they had checked the cabin where Dorner eventually took hostages on Thursday evening. The door of the cabin was locked at that time.

However, the cabin's residents, the Reynoldses, had left the door unlocked so that a maintenance man could come in — for about three weeks, San Bernardino Sheriff's Department spokesperson Cindy Bachman told KPCC. They believe that Dorner entered the cabin either Thursday morning or afternoon, and evidence inside indicated that Dorner had been there for a while, Bachman said.

"In hindsight, it's probably a good thing that [Dorner] did not answer based on his actions both before and after that event," McMahon said, citing concerns over officer safety.

McMahon said that the deputy sheriffs did a great job, and that he wasn't going to have them kick open the doors to possibly hundreds of cabins when no one answered, saying that it wasn't their right to do so, "regardless of who we're looking for."

"The Reynolds family were heroes," McMahon said. They reported that their vehicle had been stolen by Dorner, who proceeded to carjack another vehicle and later shot two sheriff's deputies, according to McMahon.

"Before our deputies could finalize a plan, they were ambushed by Christopher Dorner," McMahon said. "Both our officers went down."

Sheriffs managed to drag both the injured officers back to cover, according to Herbert.

"When we would move, he would shoot at us," Herbert said. They decided to deploy "cold gas," a particular kind of tear gas, into the cabin. Dorner also deployed his own gas toward officers, throwing four smoke bombs, according to Herbert.

When the cold gas didn't force Dorner out, they switched to pyrotechnic tear gas, also known as "burners."

Herbert said that they made numerous PA announcements trying to communicate with Dorner before using the pyrotechnic tear gas.

"An entry on the cabin was not an option, for the safety of our officers," Herbert said, as it would have forced a close gun battle. He also said that it was taken into account that fire can be a byproduct of using this kind of gas.

"This was our only option. The cold gas did not work," Herbert said.

As the house burned, numerous rounds of ammunition began to detonate inside, which posed a danger for the deputies outside, according to Herbert. Eventually the fire department was allowed to come in and cool the remains of the cabin, Herbert said.

Dorner's body was identified via dental records in an autopsy Thursday. The autopsy took about six hours, Lacy said. He added that they won't be talking about where Dorner's body is released following the autopsy.

The body was initially found in the cabin's basement, according to Newport. His license was also found on the body.

There also remains information not being released to the public. "There are many things that we don't want to release at this time," Newport said.

McMahon said they don't know how Dorner got all of the weapons he had to the condo, and also that they don't know why he ended up in Big Bear. He said there was no information suggesting he had an accomplice or any communication with the outside.

This story has been updated.

Correction: The timeline has been clarified from an earlier version of this story.

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