MacKay’s father, Alan, is something of a legend in these hills.
A former captain with the San Bernardino County Fire Department, the elder MacKay had played a key role during the 2003 “Old Fire,” which burned more than 91,000 acres, killed five people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes. The Redlands resident put in 15-hour days, fighting the fire and acting as a department spokesman when needed.
Loftis says the son had initially planned to follow in the father’s footsteps. But a few ride-alongs with deputies patrolling the waters of Lake Arrowhead convinced him to go for another type of badge.
The younger MacKay had been putting in 12-hour days searching for Dorner. On Feb. 9, an Associated Press reporter ran across him during a patrol around the lake.
Despite having been on duty since 5 a.m., MacKay and his partner were in good spirits. Standing by the car door in full tactical gear, MacKay tucked the stock of his Mini-14 rifle against his shoulder and practiced sighting down the barrel, aiming playfully at a snowdrift.
“This one, you just never know if the guy’s going to pop out or where he’s going to pop out,” he told a reporter, crinkling his brow and shaking his head. “We’re hoping this comes to a close without any more casualties. The best thing would be for him to give up.”
The next day, MacKay was excited to see his photo on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. But he chided himself, cousin Kelly Mitchell says, for having what he considered “a smug look” on his face.
Jeremiah and Lynette MacKay married in late 2011. Lynette had a 7-year-old daughter from a previous relationship; about four months ago, she gave birth to a son.
As a bagpiper for the Inland Empire Emerald Society, MacKay had played at many memorials and funerals for fallen officers. He knew this hunt was perilous, but he knew just as well that Dorner had to be stopped.
And he was determined to be the one who did it.