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Hunt for fugitive ex-cop: Charred human remains found in burned cabin

Handout / Reuters

A frame grab from KNBC4 TV aerial footage shows smoke and fire from a cabin where fugitive former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner is believed to be barricaded in Big Bear, California February 12, 2013. Dorner exchanged gunfire on Tuesday with San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies in the mountains northeast of Los Angeles after he broke into a home, tied up a couple and stole their pickup truck, authorities said.

Investigators discovered charred human remains late Tuesday within a torched California mountain cabin where police sources say ex-cop Christopher Dorner barricaded himself after a deadly shootout with sheriff’s deputies.

In a statement, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said that identification would be attempted "through forensic means."

Earlier, San Bernardino Sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said authorities believed the suspect was still inside the cabin when the inferno began.

Gunfire erupted during the hunt for former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner, who was charged with murder on Monday. The unfolding drama brought officers to a cabin in the mountains where the suspect was barricaded inside. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

The hulking former lawman declared war on the LAPD in an online manifesto because he was fired four years ago. Accused of killing three people between Feb. 3 and Feb. 7, he was the target of the biggest manhunt in Los Angeles history.

A day of dramatic and tragic developments began after police received a report around 12:22 p.m. Tuesday that someone fitting Dorner’s description had stolen a car from a home near the ski resort area of Big Bear, police said.

The car owner told NBCLosAngeles.com that a man who looked like Dorner came up to him with a rifle and demanded his pickup, and let him take his dogs out of the back before he fled.

A ground and air search ensued, and authorities located the pickup on Highway 38.

A spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game said one of its wardens was the “very first person to spot Mr. Dorner … They both got out of the vehicles and exchanged gunfire.”

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The warden’s truck was riddled with bullets but he was not hurt, agency spokesman Andrew Hughan told NBCLosAngeles.com.

Dorner, who was already wanted for three slayings linked to a revenge-fueled rampage, “fled into the forest and barricaded himself inside a cabin,” the San Bernardino Sheriff’s office said in a statement.  “A short time later there was an exchange of gunfire between law enforcement and the suspect.”

Two deputies were shot and taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where Sheriff John McMahon later confirmed one had died and one was in surgery. Their names were not released.

No more shots were fired from inside the cabin in Angelus Oaks before police demanded Dorner surrender and began preparing to storm the structure, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said.

A source close to the probe told NBCLosAngeles.com that deputies broke the cabin windows, fired tear gas inside and began breaking down walls with an armored personnel carrier.

The deputies then heard a single gunshot, and soon after flames and smoke could be seen, the source said.

Shortly before 7 p.m. local time, Villaraigosa told Telemundo "it's over," but declined to elaborate.

Hundreds of investigators had spent a week searching for Dorner, who is accused of killing a retired captain’s daughter and her fiancé on Feb. 3 and a police officer on Feb. 7.

His burned-out truck, a Nissan Titan, was found in Big Bear last week and scores of officers have been combing the mountain, going door-to-door to see if they could find signs of forced entry.

At an afternoon press conference, LAPD commander Smith had a message for Dorner: “Enough is enough. It’s time to turn yourself in.”

“Everyone is very hopeful that this thing ends without any further bloodshed,” Smith said. “The best thing for him now would be to surrender … and he can face the criminal justice system.”

Dorner, an ex-cop and Navy reservist detailed his plans and hit list in an online manifesto — a 11,000-word declaration of war against the LAPD in which he makes it clear he would not be taken alive.

“Self Preservation is no longer important to me,” he wrote. “I do not fear death as I died long ago on 1/2/09.”

That’s the date that Dorner got his walking papers from the LAPD after being fired for making a false statement about an officer he accused of brutalizing a suspect.

Police say Dorner exacted revenge on the lawyer who represented him at the internal review, retired captain Randy Quan, by gunning down his daughter, Monica Quan, 28, and her boyfriend, Keith Lawrence, 27, in their car as they returned home to Irvine, Calif., after the Super Bowl.

Four days later, authorities said, Dorner ambushed police officers who were guarding other potential targets in Riverside and Corona, Calif., killing one of them.

LAPD officials said earlier Tuesday they were sifting through 1,000 clues and, including a video that may show the suspect stocking up on scuba gear before the killing spree.

Police confirmed they were even looking into the possibility Dorner had fled to Mexico — the destination he mentioned when he tried to steal a boat in San Diego last Wednesday.

Among the newest leads, a video that was posted on TMZ that appears to show Dorner purchasing scuba equipment at Sport Chalet in Torrance, Calif., on Feb. 1. Neiman said police had not nailed down if it was Dorner and could not say why he would be buying underwater gear.

A criminal complaint filed in federal court last week also revealed that investigators have been tracking an associate of Dorner — someone with the initials J.Y. — whose family has property not far from where Dorner's vehicle was abandoned and torched.

“We will leave no stone unturned to find out if someone was assisting this man in his terrible crimes and eluding capture,” Smith said.

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