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Donors back out of $1.2-million Dorner reward as money fight emerges

March 25, 2013|By Louis Sahagun and Joel Rubin
  • A digital billboard along Santa Monica Boulevard shows a "wanted" alert for former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner.
A digital billboard along Santa Monica Boulevard shows a "wanted"… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)

The $1.2-million reward in the case of ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner may be drying up as three people fight for the money.

"I've spoken with some groups, including a few that are substantial, that have already decided to withdraw their pledges,” said Ron Cottingham, president of the 64,000-member Peace Officers Research Assn. of California, which put a hold on its own dollars contributed toward the reward. "They said the reward doesn't fit their criteria."

More than 25 donors pledged reward money, including state and local police unions, civic organizations and individuals. But now, many are hesitating to follow through.

At issue is what, exactly, the money is meant to reward. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa initially said it was for information leading to Dorner's capture, but later statements by authorities said it was for Dorner's "capture and conviction."

Police believe that Dorner went on a 10-day killing rampage of revenge against law enforcement officials whom he blamed for his 2009 firing from the force. Dorner is thought to have killed Riverside Police Officer Michael Crain; San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy Jeremiah MacKay; Monica Quan, the daughter of a retired LAPD captain; and Quan's fiance, Keith Lawrence.

Dorner was chased to a Big Bear cabin last month, where he eventually shot himself before being taken into custody. Some groups now say that three people who alerted authorities to Dorner's location minutes before his death aren't entitled to the money because he died.

Earlier this month, Karen and Jim Reynolds staked their claim for the money, arguing that their call to police alone was why Dorner was captured. Dorner tied them up when they stumbled on him when they went to check on their cabin. He had been holed up there while San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies scoured the mountainside for him.

But there's a competing claim for the money. Rick Heltebrake, who Dorner carjacked after he fled the Reynolds’ cabin, argues that his call to a sheriff’s deputy helped lead to Dorner’s demise.

The dozens of organizations that contributed to the reward have to agree before it can be dispensed, Los Angeles Police Department officials said. Even if some groups back out, the reward will not drop below $1 million, one official told The Times.

But determining how much of it will be dispensed, and to whom, is still months away.

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louis.sahagun@latimes.com

joel.rubin@latimes.com


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