Fire On The Mountain: Chris Dorner, the Media, and the LAPD
February 17, 2013
As protestors gather outside Police Headquarters in Los Angeles, much of the country remains divided on Chris Dorner after his killing spree ending in a burst of bullets, blood, and flame. Some call him a patriot and a hero, others call him a psychotic cop killer, but neither side is telling the full story…
Speaking on the climate of hate in America in 1963, Malcolm X said that “chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad” in reference to the Kennedy assassination. The same phrase can be applied 50 years later in California. 1,400 miles from Dallas where a man the media is calling a “Homicidal Maniac” took his calculated, brutal revenge on the Los Angeles Police Department. Chris Dorner, a former LAPD officer himself was the target of one of the most high profile manhunts in recent American history.
So far the story has been reported as this; Chris Dorner was fired from the LAPD in 2008 for reasons that are at best, unclear. Brief mentions of his complaints are made, but not addressed in detail and are quickly forgotten. The major news networks have presented only a few of the facts to paint the following picture. Dorner was a troublemaker with a victim complex, and after being fired from the Department, stayed dormant and inactive while his rage boiled and festered until he finally “snapped” five years later. Even more embarrassing inquiries were being made on the day of his death as to whether or not a bad relationship could have led to his spree.
The police and the media seemed to ignore the motive clearly stated in his manifesto, and it became evident over time which newscasters had read the piece in its entirety, and those who simply skimmed over the first few paragraphs. The amount of information on Dorner that is available with just the slightest investigative effort is staggering to say the least. That is why I found it puzzling when on February 7th, the Riverside Police Department held a press conference where they expressed concern and gave advice as to the safety of children and uninvolved civilians. He was officially a fugitive on February 6th, however Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence were shot and killed February 3rd. Super Bowl Sunday. His manifesto was posted on his Facebook page on January 31st and went public by February 4th at 9:14 AM.
The fact that Dorner’s manifesto had been available for 72 hours at the time of that press conference raised the question in my mind: Did these officers even read it? He clearly stated his was going to bring “unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform.” and would kill any officer trying to arrest him. This wasn’t a mindless rampage designed to panic the public and kill as many people as possible. This was cold-blooded revenge. A plan years in the making. Many of the facts the press got wrong initially were easily correctable. Initial reports claim he was fired in 2008, but his actual termination date was January 2nd 2009. In later days the phrase “maniac” was attached to him, but the manhunt itself attacked more civilians than Dorner. He was taking the fight to the cops, and the media, along with the LAPD didn’t like it at all.
It should be expected that when one becomes a vigilante and takes up the mantle of murderer, that one’s points become muddled and unclear by the emotions the act stirs up in the collective conscious of the public. Some would argue that any criticisms he had of the LAPD, no matter how legitimate, became invalidated the moment he picked up a gun. Call me insensitive, but no matter what a person does or how twisted they become, facts don’t change. They are a constant. If he had legitimate complaints and saw signs of wrongdoing and corruption inside the LAPD, those things don’t change just because he became a murdering avenger. Given the history of the Department, the Ramparts scandal and the many stories that broke as recently as 2012 highlighting police corruption, I was inclined to believe that something deeper lie just beneath the surface.
The biggest story taken out of Dorner’s manifesto was an incident involving Officer Teresa Evans (who is now a Sergeant) and a suspect named Christopher Gettler (now a diagnosed schizophrenic with dementia to boot). While Gettler was cuffed and lying on the ground, Evans allegedly kicked him twice in the face as Dorner looked on. It took Dorner two weeks to report the issue, and only did so after Evans gave him a poor review on a performance evaluation. Evans vehemently denied the allegations, and witnesses could not be brought to admit that Evans had kicked the subdued Gettler. Gettler himself had returned home that day with bruising beneath his left eye where Dorner claimed he had been kicked. Gettler’s father Richard confirmed the markings, but said that he did not report the injury because it was relatively minor and his son could not properly explain why he had been assaulted. He went on to say that his son’s mental illness would not make him a good witness.
Right or wrong, Dorner had crossed the Blue Line and he would pay for it with his career. Captain Randal Quan was tasked to represent Dorner in the hearing and the three man board ruled unanimously against Dorner. This lead to his ultimate termination.
The incident no one seems to bring up however is one that Dorner describes in his manifesto about two white officers casually throwing around the word “Nigger” while in the same vehicle as him. According to his statement, he let it go the first time, giving the officer the benefit of the doubt. Distance, ambient noise and other conversations made it unclear what had been said. Then he heard it again, this time clear as day. After verbal sparring the officer said it again, and another joined in. Saying they would say nigger “Whenever I want”. At this point Dorner climbed over the seats and throttled the first officer, telling him not to use the word again. When Dorner filed his complaint, only one other officer in the van would tell the story as it happened and the others merely claimed they had seen and heard nothing. The two officers were given 22 day paid suspensions and are on the force to this day. Dorner also claimed there were recruits and officers alike singing Nazi songs to individuals who are also still on the force. Not only does he make allegations, he names names.
The troubling part is that all of his stories that can be officially tracked with complaints and paperwork check out. With a few phone calls and a bit of digging his other allegations can be corroborated, albeit without hard evidence. Many media outlets make it seem as though Dorner dropped off the face of the earth after his firing. In all actuality there were appeals made to his case as recent as October 2011, according to the documents I was able to obtain. At this point a split has to be made, a difference recognized. After hearing all of the facts, one must make the effort to differentiate Understandable with Justifiable.
Chris Dorner had a very black and white sense of justice. Warped to some, but I noticed a naïveté in his writing that is surely a reflection of his character. As an ensign he found and returned nearly $8,000 in cash and checks to a church in Oklahoma and made the local newspaper. He was a volunteer multiple times. With the Reserves, the Riverine Group, and the LAPD. As a reservist, he didn’t have to do Boots on Ground time in Iraq, but he did it anyway. That was just who he was. As a young Black man growing up in California he had a myriad of reasons to stay as far away from the LAPD as humanly possible, but he joined up anyway. Chris Dorner believed in the system. He wanted to help people and be a part of something bigger than himself. He had such a stark and childlike view of right and wrong, of justice and injustice, that seeing corruption, crooked cops, racism, misandry and misogyny within the department was a shock from which he never truly recovered. Feeling as though he had been a victim of that system as well didn’t help. He was forced out because he broke an unwritten rule; he had crossed the Blue Line. Cops look out for other cops, they don’t rat on each other whether they’re right or wrong.
After being fired, Dorner had lost his livelihood, his reputation, his social standing, and his friends. He felt trapped and desperate, infuriated by the injustice he felt. “I’ve lost a relationship with my mother and sister because of the LAPD” he said. “I’ve lost a relationship with close friends because of the LAPD”. He took it personally, he took it to heart. His sense of justice would not let these deeds go unpunished. He had tried filing the paperwork. It didn’t work. So while I cannot condone the murder of police and their families, I can certainly understand his course of action.
This was a man with nothing left to lose. A man who believed that by taking the burden upon himself to wage war on the Los Angeles Police Department, he could not only clear his name but expose the corruption that grows daily in the Department. The trouble with this logic however, is that vigilantes are just men, and men can be vilified, men can be killed. An idea, however, a movement…That has everlasting life. Black Activist Fred Hampton (who was assassinated by Chicago police) used to say “You can kill the revolutionary, but you can never kill the revolution.” And he was absolutely right. It takes organization, numbers, and time to effect change; a one man army can never convince people. He can be smeared, imprisoned, or murdered, and then in time he’ll fade away with that particular news cycle. With million dollar bounties, government authorized drones, and officers willing to shoot at civilians that look nothing like the suspect, how does one even hope to compete?
The fact remains that the police mangled this case, from the double wallet controversy to the million dollar bounty to the request for social media blackout during the final stand and the torching of the cabin. Every step of the manhunt has been dogged by rookie mistakes, factual errors and blatant lies. There is still corruption in the LAPD, Dorner wasn’t making that up. So after years of treating people badly and protecting crooked cops and being home to many rapists, murderers and racists in uniform, this entire course events seems to simply be the LAPD’s chickens coming home to roost. Neither party involved is innocent; both of them have blood on their hands. In the weeks and months to come, more information will come to light, but it will not gain much media attention. As far as they’re concerned, the bad guy is dead and the good guys won. To simplify it down to that level is to stoop to Dorner’s understanding of right and wrong. The Good Guys wear the White hat, and the Bad Guys wear the Black hat. It’s not that easy. Neither the police, nor Christopher Dorner can be called “good guys” in the situation, but neither one can be completely painted as a villain either. This is one of the murkiest and ambiguous cases in recent history, and to try and judge it from a moral standpoint would be totally in vain.
The biggest lesson in this case at the end of the day, however, is that you can never completely trust the mainstream media to tell you the truth. Too many of us are dependent on them for the facts. With a little bit of investigative work, reading, and critical thinking, most all of the details become clear. Until we can hold them accountable for the information they put out, we are completely and totally on our own.