At 6 feet and 270 pounds, Christopher Jordan Dorner looked every inch the college football player he once was.
Melinda Yates befriended Dorner when they attended Southern Utah University together in Cedar City, a small town northeast of Las Vegas. She remembers him as “kind of like a big teddy bear,” always smiling.
Apparently, behind that sweet smile there was rage.
Dorner claimed his earliest experience with racism was in first grade at a Christian school, when he punched and kicked a fellow student who’d called him a “nigger” on the playground. The principal “swatted” the other boy for the slur, then struck Dorner for failing to “turn the other cheek as Jesus did.”
“That day,” he would write in the now infamous manifesto, “I made a life decision that i will not tolerate racial derogatory terms spoken to me.”
Dorner joined the Navy in July 2002. He told a reporter that he wanted to fly SH-60/MH-60 Seahawk helicopters on special operations and search-and-rescue missions — but later told an acquaintance that a problem with vertigo killed those dreams.
So he went into the Navy Reserve doing mostly administrative work after his active-duty stint ended in June 2004.
Soon afterward, he shifted his sights to the LAPD.
He entered the academy on Feb. 7, 2005.
Like the other cadets, Dorner went through the department’s rigorous six-month, 920-hour academy training. Upon completion, he joined a training officer on the street, working regular 12-hour shifts. There was at least one bump in the road: He was suspended for two days for accidental discharge of his firearm.
A year after Dorner became a police officer, he rose to the rank of lieutenant in the Navy on Aug. 1, 2006 — his last promotion.
He was called up in the Reserve and left on a six-month deployment to Bahrain on Nov. 3, 2006. He worked mostly providing port protection, earning an Iraq Campaign Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Dorner returned to the LAPD in 2007 and resumed his training. That is when his career — and life — went off the rails.
Sgt. Teresa Evans, his training officer, said Dorner repeatedly asked why he was being put back on patrol without reintegration training. On one occasion, she said, he began weeping in the patrol car and demanded to go back to the academy.
Dorner told Evans that he “might have some issues regarding his deployment,” she told investigators.
A day after Evans submitted a poor review, Dorner told internal affairs that she had kicked a mentally ill man in the chest and left cheek during an arrest. He was relieved of duty on Sept. 4, 2008.
A police review panel ultimately found the allegation untrue. He was officially fired on Jan. 2, 2009.
There were already hints of a troubled personal life; Dorner married April Carter in April 2007 and bought a home a few miles from the Las Vegas Strip. Less than a month later, the couple filed for a divorce.
(More than five years later, on Oct. 19 of last year, Las Vegas records show that he and Ali Kristine McDonald obtained a marriage license. But there is no indication they actually married.)
Months after he was fired, Dorner filed a writ in Los Angeles Superior Court against the LAPD, alleging wrongful termination. He continued filing appeals in different courts up until 2011.
But why Dorner unleashed his revenge now is unclear. Former roommate J’Anna Viskoc has a theory.
For about two months in the summer of 2008, the Las Vegas manicurist rented a room in Dorner’s home. Aside from all the guns — which were “on the floor, under the cushions” — she remembers the uniformed portraits and framed displays of his medals.
“I feel like being a police officer and being in the military, that was his identity,” she said. “That was who he was.”
On Feb. 1, Dorner received an honorable discharge, ending his lackluster 11-year Navy career.
“Maybe that’s what set him off,” Viskoc wondered. “That he couldn’t win.”
Dorner claimed his first victims on Feb. 3.
Monica Quan, 28, was an assistant women’s basketball coach at California State University, Fullerton. She was also the daughter of retired LAPD Capt. Randal Quan — the man who had represented Dorner in his disciplinary hearings.
She lived in an Irvine condominium with boyfriend Keith Lawrence — a former basketball player and University of Southern California cop whose shoes and buckles she had stayed up until the wee hours polishing when he was at the police academy. On Jan. 26, Lawrence, 27, had strewn the apartment floor with rose petals, gotten down on one knee and proposed, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Just over a week later, at 9:10 p.m., Quan and Lawrence were found slumped in their car in the parking lot of their condo complex.
They were fatally shot.
The next morning, an employee emptying the trash behind a San Diego-area auto parts store spotted some military gear in a trash bin. Around that same time, Dorner posted his 11,000-word screed entitled “Last Resort” on Facebook.
“This was a necessary evil that had to be executed in order for me to obtain my NAME back,” Dorner wrote. “The only thing that changes policy and garners attention is death.”
The rambling post went on: “When the truth comes out, the killing stops.”
The document would lurk in cyberspace for two more days before police discovered it and connected it to the Irvine killings. They held a news conference to name Dorner as a suspect.
The next day, Feb. 7, Dorner struck again.
Around 1:30 a.m. two LAPD officers assigned to protect one of the people named in Dorner’s manifesto spotted him in the Riverside County community of Corona. During a shootout, one officer was grazed on the forehead.
A short while later in nearby Riverside, SWAT team Officer Michael Crain and trainee Andrew Tachias were in the middle of a graveyard shift.
The 34-year-old former Marine had served two tours of duty in Kuwait before joining the Riverside force in 2001. As a Marine, Crain had once taught urban warfare tactics, but on this day he had no time to react.
The two were waiting at a stoplight when someone — believed to be Dorner — raced up and opened fire on them. Tachias, 27, was critically wounded; Crain was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Before dawn, freeway signs lit up statewide with a description of Dorner and his pickup, and a warning that he should be considered armed and extremely dangerous.
Later that morning, authorities found a burned-out pickup truck near the Bear Mountain ski area in the San Bernardino Mountains. The truck, which had a broken axle, was loaded with weapons and camping gear.
Police later confirmed it was the black Nissan Titan Dorner had so religiously buffed and polished.
Tips poured in, topping 1,000 after a $1 million reward was posted on Feb. 9. The Mexican navy went on alert following a report that Dorner had attempted to steal a yacht in San Diego.
Other suspected sightings of Dorner over the week led to authorities mistakenly firing on two newspaper carriers, shutting down a Navy base in San Diego, evacuating a Los Angeles area home improvement store, and raiding at a low-budget motel across the border in Tijuana, Mexico. But the manhunt was centered on the mountains. That was Jeremiah MacKay’s territory.