"It was Christopher Dorner, I knew right away."
Authorities haven't yet identified the charred remains that were pulled from the cabin wreckage in Big Bear, Calif. after Wednesday's fiery, fatal standoff. But Boy Scout camp ranger Rick Heltebrake claims that he came face to face with Dorner during the fugitive's final hours.
In the KTLA video above, Heltebrake describes that he was driving when he saw someone emerge from the trees and walk to the middle of the road. When asked what Dorner was wearing, Heltebrake could only remember one thing: he was "a guy with a big gun."
Heltebrake only spoke briefly with the man he described to be Dorner, but he says the gunman was "pretty calm."
"I didn't see wild eyes or anything like that," Heltebrake said. "He said, 'I don't want to hurt you. Just get out and start walking down the road.'" But Heltebrake wasn't alone in his car; his three-year-old Dalmatian Suni dog was beside him.
"He looked at my dog, who was in the passenger seat, and he said, 'take the dog and just start walking.'" Amazingly, Heltebrake also asked if he could take the time to reach for his dog's leash too -- a request Dorner denied. After Heltebrake and his dog got out of the truck, the gunman leapt in and drove away.
"I came face to face with a killer and now that killer is dead," Heltebrake concluded. "We can move on with our lives."
Heltebrake also recounted his experience to the Associated Press and said of Dorner, "He wasn't wild-eyed, just almost professional ... He was on a mission."
"It was clear I wasn't part of his agenda and there were other people down the road that were part of his agenda," Heltebrake continued.
The Associated Press has more on the circumstances that led the gunman to Heltebrake's car. From AP:
Lt. Patrick Foy with the California Fish and Wildlife Department, which aided the search, said two housekeepers surprised Dorner in the cabin when they came to clean it Tuesday morning. The women were tied up but one freed herself and call 911, Foy said.
Fish and Wildlife wardens spotted the Nissan that had been reported stolen going in the opposite direction and gave chase, Foy said. The driver looked like Dorner.
They lost the car after it passed a school bus and turned onto a side road, but two other Fish and Wildlife patrols turned up the road a short time later, and were searching for the car when a white pickup truck sped erratically toward them.
"He took a close look at the driver and realized it was the suspect," Foy said.
That was Heltebrake's truck.
Dorner, who allegedly stole the pickup truck at gunpoint after crashing the first car, rolled down a window and opened fire on the wardens, striking their truck more than a dozen times, he said.
One of the wardens shot at the suspect as he rounded a curve in the road. It's unclear if he was hit, but the stolen pickup careened off the road and crashed in a snow bank.
The driver then ran to the cabin where he barricaded himself and got in a shootout with sheriff's deputies and other officers, two of whom were shot, one fatally.
LAPD officers used the Internet to monitor radio chatter during the shootout. "It was horrifying to listen to that firefight and to hear those words. `Officer down' is the most gut-wrenching experience that you can have as a police officer," Neiman said.
With the standoff under way, officers lobbed tear gas canisters into the cabin. A single shot was heard inside before the cabin was engulfed in flames, said a law enforcement official who requested anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
Dorner is the former LAPD officer suspected of fatally shooting four people. He had been the subject of a multi-state manhunt since last Wednesday, after authorities discovered a "manifesto" allegedly posted on his Facebook profile that seemed to implicate him in the murders of Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence. In the document, he listed the LAPD officials he believed to be responsible for his 2009 termination from the police force and vowed to wage war on them and their families. Quan was the daughter of retired LAPD captain Randal Quan, who represented Dorner during the dismissal hearing.
"I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own, I'm terminating yours," wrote Dorner.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that Dorner was fired in 2008. In fact, he was relieved from duty in 2008 and officially terminated in 2009.
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