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Some donors rethinking Christopher Dorner reward pledges

March 27, 2013|By Louis Sahagun and Joel Rubin

With no "arrest and conviction" of fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner--the subject of an intense manhunt last month--some donors to a $1-million reward are rethinking their pledges.

The LAPD says there's still enough for a $1-million payout, but the city of Riverside has already rescinded its $100,000 contribution for information leading to Dorner's "arrest and conviction."

"Because the conditions were not met, there will not be a payment of a reward by the city," said Riveside city spokeswoman Cindie Perry.

FULL COVERAGE: Sweeping manhunt for ex-cop

Two claims have been made on the money since Dorner's death Feb. 12 -- by a couple near Big Bear who were tied up and whose car was stolen by Dorner, and by a man whose pickup truck Dorner later hijacked.

But some groups that are reconsidering said they offered the reward for information that would have led to the capture and conviction of Dorner, neither of which occurred. Dorner committed suicide when cornered in a burning cabin near Big Bear.

Underlying their objections is a moral argument that donors will not make publicly. Some find the claims for the money unseemly.

WHO THEY WERE: Victims in the Dorner case

They believe reward seekers had called police to report they were victims of crimes by Dorner and now seek to profit from their brief encounters, which left them unharmed, during a rampage that devastated the families of police officers and of others he killed.

Police believe 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.

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.

"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 union Peace Officers Research Assn. of California, which has placed its own pledge on hold pending additional information. "They said the reward doesn't fit their criteria."

The LAPD, responding to the arguments donors make publicly, says the money should be paid.

LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said that to deny someone the reward because Dorner died before he could be put on trial "would be disingenuous" and would undermine future attempts by police to get information about unsolved crimes by offering rewards.

Much of the confusion surrounding the conditions of the reward began with the language Villaraigosa used in his announcement. Donors specified that the money they pledged was for Dorner's arrest and conviction. But Villaraigosa broadened it to "capture" in his public remarks -- and that word could be interpreted to include being surrounded in a cabin before committing suicide.

Later in the news conference announcing the reward, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said pointedly: "For those of you with questions about how the reward works: The reward is for the capture and the conviction."

Further clouding the issue is the language of a written statement the LAPD issued saying the reward was "for information leading to the apprehension and conviction" of Dorner. The department recently proposed replacing that phrase with "identification and capture." State and local law enforcement unions that pledged money rejected the change.

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louis.sahagun@latimes.com

joel.rubin@latimes.com


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