By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California couple tied up in their mountain cabin by a former policeman wanted by authorities for a grudge-driven killing spree told an emergency call operator that he had likely been hiding in there for days.
The conversation, contained in tapes made public on Wednesday, offered a glimpse into the dramatic final hours before the ex-cop, Christopher Dorner, died on Feb 12 after a shootout with police while he was barricaded in a second cabin.
Dorner, a 33-year-old former Los Angeles police officer who was wanted in the killings of four people, shot himself to death as that cabin burned to the ground. His charred remains were found inside.
The fugitive's last stand followed several days in which he evaded police in the mountains in and around the ski resort community of Big Bear, in the San Bernardino Mountains above Los Angeles - apparently spending much of that time holed up in a cabin owned by married couple Jim and Karen Reynolds.
In the 911 tapes, posted online by local KPCC-FM public radio, Karen Reynolds can be heard calmly telling a dispatcher that Dorner had bound, gagged and blindfolded them and left with the keys to their maroon sport utility vehicle.
"We have been tied up by him. He has taken off with our Nissan Rogue," Karen Reynolds said, telling the operator that she had managed to make the call using the speaker phone feature on a cellphone that Dorner had left behind in another room.
"I'm pretty sure he's been here the whole time," Karen Reynolds said during the 21-minute recording as her husband was heard in the background. "We live on the property; this is one of our condos."
Reynolds said she and her husband had entered the cabin to do some maintenance work and had been surprised by Dorner, who tied them with pillow cases over their heads.
In describing the location of the cabin, she said that it was "right across" from a command center set up by authorities coordinating a search for Dorner, to which the dispatcher expressed surprise.
Karen Reynolds asked throughout the conversation when sheriff's deputies would arrive to free them and at one point was heard falling and injuring herself. The call ended with the arrival of deputies, who could be heard telling her that they were trying not to hurt her as they cut her bonds.
Jim and Karen Reynolds are among at least three people who have submitted claims for a pooled $1.2 million reward offered in February for Dorner's capture. Two of the groups that originally said they would contribute to the reward have since pulled their money from the fund, touching off a local furor.
Dorner, who was black, posted a lengthy rant online alleging racism within the LAPD.
Authorities suspected him of killed an officer's daughter and her fiance, and then going on a shooting spree targeting police across Southern California, killing two officers and wounding two others.
He had been fired from the LAPD after an investigation found he falsely reported that a white superior officer beat a suspect. He vowed deadly revenge for his firing and charged that the police department had a deep-seated, institutional racism.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)