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Friday, February 15, 2013

Yet no element in the Dorner drama was more disturbing than the performance of mainstream media

How law enforcement and media covered up the plan to burn Christopher Dorner alive

HIghly disturbing behavior by newspaper and Live TV 

sources in complying with the San Bernardino Sheriffs. 

At approximately 7 PM ET, I listened through a police 

scanner as San Bernardino Sheriffs gave the order to 

burn down the cabin where suspected murderer 

Christopher Dorner was allegedly hiding. Deputies were 

maneuvering a remote controlled demolition vehicle to 

the base of the cabin, using it to tear down the walls of 

the cabin where Dorner was hiding, and peering inside. 

In an initial dispatch, a deputy reported seeing "blood 

spatter" inside the cabins. Dorner, who had just 

engaged in a firefight with deputies that killed one 

officer and wounded another, may have been wounded 

in the exchange. There was no sign of his presence, let 

alone his resistance, according to police dispatches. 

It was then that the deputies decided to burn the cabin 


"We're gonna go ahead with the plan with the burner," 

one sheriff's deputy told another. "Like we talked 

about." Minutes later, another deputy's voice crackled 

across the radio: "The burner's deployed and we have a 


Next, a sheriff reported a "single shot" heard from inside 

the house. This was before the fire had penetrated 

deeply into the cabin's interior, and may have signaled 

Dorner's suicide. At that point, an experienced ex-cop 

like him would have known he was finished. 

Over the course of the next hour, I listened as the 

sheriffs carefully managed the fire, ensuring that it 

burned the cabin thoroughly. Dorner, a former member 

of the LAPD who had accused his ex-colleagues of 

abuse and racism in a lengthy, detailed manifesto, was 

inside. The cops seemed to have little interest in taking 

him alive. 

"Burn that fucking house down!" shouted a deputy 

through a scanner transmission inadvertently broadcast 

on the Los Angeles local news channel, KCAL 9. 

"Fucking burn this motherfucker!" another cop could be 

heard exclaiming. 

While live ammo exploded inside the cabin, the deputies 

pondered whether the basement would burn as well - 

they wanted to know if its ceiling was made of wood or 

concrete. They assumed Dorner was hiding there, and 

apparently wanted to ensure that he would be burned to 

a crisp. "Because the fire is contained, I'm gonna let that 

heat burn through the basement," a deputy declared. 

SWAT teams airlifted to the location were told to be 

ready in case Dorner did manage to escape. "Guys be 

ready on the number four side [the front of the cabin]," a 

deputy declared. "He might come out the back." 

Just after 7 PM (4 PM PT), right when the orders were 

given to deploy the "burners," the San Bernardino 

Country Sheriff's Department Public Information Officer 

Cindy Bachman hastily gathered reporters for an 

impromptu press conference. Claiming to know nothing 

new, she told reporters that she had no idea why the 

cabin was on fire, or who started the fire. Reporters 

badgered Bachman for information, but she had none, 

raising the question of why the presser was convened 

when it was. 

Around the same time, the San Bernardino County 

Sheriff's Department requested that all reporters and 

media organizations stop tweeting about the ongoing 

standoff with Dorner, claiming their journalism was 

"hindering officer safety." As the cabin sheltering Dorner 

burned, the local CBS affiliate was reportedly told by law 

enforcement to zoom its helicopter camera out to avoid 

showing the actions of sheriff's deputies. By all 

accounts, the media acceded to police pressure for self-


On Twitter, the Riverside Press Enterprise, a leading 

local newspaper, announced on Twitter, "Law 

enforcement asked media to stop tweeting about 

the#Dorner case, fearing officer safety. We are 

complying." The paper's editors added, "We are going to 

tweet broad, non-tactical details, as per the San 

Bernardino DA's request." 

"Per [San Bernardino Country Sheriff's Department] 

request," tweeted the local CBS affiliate, KCBS, "we are 

complying and will not tweet updates on #Dorner 


At the time that I am writing this, some online media 

outlets are beginning to entertain the possibility that 

San Bernardino County Sheriff's deliberately set the fire 

that killed Dorner - a fact that I reported on Twitter as 

soon the sheriff's department order came down. If there 

is any doubt about the authenticity of the YouTube clip 

containing audio of the sheriff deputies' orders to burn 

the cabin down, I can verify that it is the real thing. I was 

listening to the same transmissions when they first 

blared across the police scanners. 

In the hours after the standoff, however, the police 

cover-up remained unchallenged thanks largely to local 

media complicity. An initial Los Angeles Times report 

recounted the incident in a passive voice, claiming 

"flames began to spread through the structure, and 

gunshots, probably set off by the fire, were heard." 

Similarly, LA's ABC affiliate, KABC, quoted Bachman's 

vague comment about "that cabin that caught fire," 

failing to explore why it was aflame or who torched it. 

Today, the Los Angeles Times reported claims by 

anonymous "law enforcement sources" that the sheriffs 

used "incendiary tear gas" to flush Dorner out of the 

cabin. The sources claimed the deputies who had 

besieged the cabin were under a "constant barrage of 

gunfire" and that, "There weren't a lot of options." 

This is almost certainly a lie. The only mention by a 

deputy at the scene of a gunshot from inside the cabin 

was the "single shot" that occurred as soon as the 

"burners," or incendiary teargas munitions, were 

deployed. After that point, deputies made constant 

mention of ammunition exploding inside the cabin as a 

result of the intense heat of the fire they set, but said 

nothing about any shots fired at them. 

If there were a "constant barrage of gunfire," it would 

have been the main source of concern among the police 

at the scene. Instead, they were preoccupied with 

ensuring that the fire burned the cabin completely 

without spreading into the surrounding woods. 

There is a grand tradition of law enforcement using 

incendiary devices to assault besieged suspects, and of 

covering up their use. One of the most famous examples 

of this tactic, and its horrible consequences, was the 

Philadelphia Police Department'sbombing of the 

compound of the radical black nationalist cult, M.O.V.E., 

dropping C-4 explosives by helicopter on the 

house,killing 11 members of the group, including 5 

children, and destroying 65 homes in the West 

Philadelphia neighborhood. 

It was not until the 51-day FBI siege of the Waco, Texas 

compound of the messianic Branch Davidian cult that 

"burners," or incendiary 40mm military grade cartridges, 

were used to burn a structure down. Six years after 

claiming that the Branch Davidians deliberately burned 

their own compound down, the FBI finally admitted that 

it used incendiary rounds, but insisted that none of 

them contributed to the fire that consumed the 


The "burners," or pyrotechnic rounds the San 

Bernardino County Sheriffs used to torch Dorner's 

cabin, are likely similar, and perhaps more powerful, 

than those employed by the FBI in Waco. Through the 

five-year-old "Department of Defense Excess Property 

Program," the US military has provided police 

departments across the country with billions of dollars 

worth of military equipment, from amphibious tanks to 

AR-15 assault rifles, allowing the military to circumvent 

Posse Comitatus regulations by outsourcing their 

firepower to local cops. 

"Burners," or military grade incendiary grenades, are 

very likely among the items passed down from the US 

army to local police outfits like the San Bernardino 

Sheriff's Department.The "burner" of choice for the 

modern American soldier is the AN-M14 TH3. It is a hand 

held grenade comprised of a thermite mixture that 

rapidly converts to molten iron when it is thrown, 

burning at a temperature of 4000 degrees Fahrenheit, hot 

enough to burn through a half inch steel plate or bring 

an engine block to a boil. It can also produce enough 

heat to set off unloaded ammunition, which would 

explain why the ammo inside Dorner's hideout was 


If the San Bernardino Sheriffs employed the AN-M14 TH3 

or something like it against Dorner - and it appears they 

did - they have good reason to attempt to cover their 

actions up. Without even a token attempt to establish 

communication with the suspect, who was, to be sure, a 

wanted killer hell-bent on murdering cops, they attacked 

him with what was likely a military grade weapon 

designed to destroy fortified structures. By burning 

Dorner alive, then misleading and deceiving the public 

about the operation, the sheriffs may have validated the 

rogue ex-cop's sharpest indictments of the culture of 

American law enforcement. 

Yet no element in the Dorner drama was more disturbing 

than the performance of mainstream media. At every 

point, major news outlets complied with law 

enforcement calls for self-censorship, and still 

demonstrate little interest in determining how and why a 

lethal fire started on a snow-covered mountain in the 

dead of winter. As a quintessentially American tragedy 

reaches its denouement, the truth remains buried 

beneath a smoldering pile of ashes.
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