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Camp ranger seeks entire $1.2-million reward for Dorner capture

Rick Heltebrake was carjacked by ex-LAPD cop Christopher Dorner before calling 911. Though L.A. officials say they are inclined to give the reward to someone, Heltebrake's may not be the sole claim.

March 07, 2013|By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
  • Camp ranger Rick Heltebrake has filed a claim to collect the $1.2-million reward in the Christopher Dorner case.
Camp ranger Rick Heltebrake has filed a claim to collect the $1.2-million… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

A camp ranger carjacked by Christopher Dorner and who called 911 is seeking the entire $1.2-million reward offered for the now-deceased ex-L.A. police officer who killed four people before taking his own life in a Big Bear-area cabin.

Through a law firm, Rick Heltebrake has filed a claim to collect the reward offered by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and funded by various entities. It was not long after Heltebrake called 911 that San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies surrounded the cabin where Dorner was hiding Feb. 12 and where he shot himself.

Heltebrake, a full-time ranger at Boy Scouts-owned Camp Tahquitz, said in the claim for the reward that he was driving on Glass Road when a man jumped out of a snow bank and pointed a firearm at him.

"Mr. Heltebrake immediately recognized this man as Christopher Dorner," wrote attorney Allen L. Thomas in the Feb. 19 reward claim.

Heltebrake says Dorner ordered him out of the truck and used it to continue fleeing law enforcement. Dorner left Heltebrake behind with his dog. The camp ranger started to walk up Glass Road, but after 10 to 15 seconds he cut into the forest with the intention of going to Highway 38.

"Once off the road, Mr. Heltebrake used his cellular telephone to contact San Bernardino Deputy Sheriff Paul Franklin to report the incident and the location of Mr. Dorner," his attorney wrote.

Heltebrake told the deputy how his truck had been stolen at gunpoint by Dorner and gave its location. Dorner turned around on Glass Road and ended up heading downhill to Seven Oaks resort, where he drove the truck into a gully and fled to the nearby cabin. There, he fatally shot a deputy before being surrounded and taking his own life.

"Mr. Heltebrake's telephone call to Deputy Franklin notified law enforcement of Mr. Dorner's location, provided a description of the vehicle he was fleeing in and was the substantial factor in the capture of Mr. Dorner at the cabin location," his attorney wrote. "Consequently, Mr. Heltebrake accepts the mayor's offer of the entire reward of $1.2 million."

Though L.A. officials say they are inclined to give the reward to someone, Heltebrake's may not be the sole claim. A couple who earlier found Dorner in their rental apartment freed themselves and also called 911 to notify authorities. He was fleeing from that location when he carjacked Heltebrake.

State Department of Fish and Wildlife officers had spotted Dorner fleeing in the couple's car from Big Bear and gave chase. Dorner then carjacked Heltebrake's truck before crashing it near the cabin.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said decisions on the disbursement of the reward, as in all reward cases, will be made upon the completion of the investigation.

More than two dozen donors — including local governments, police departments, civic organizations, private groups and individuals — chipped in to offer the reward for information leading to the arrest and capture of the former LAPD officer. The reward is thought to be the largest ever offered locally and prompted hundreds of tips.

After Dorner's death, Heltebrake told a reporter, "Someone owes me $1 million," adding he wouldn't mind "parting it three ways" with the others.

Authorities said that with more than 20 jurisdictions and entities involved in the reward, they would need to collectively determine whether anyone qualified for it.

"Our personal hope is that the reward will be distributed, but we must follow the rules and respect the procedures of each entity," officials said.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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