Jim and Karen Reynolds were held captive in their Big Bear cabin by ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner in February 2013. The couple was awarded the majority of a $1 million reward offered during the manhunt for Dorner, whose revenge-fueled shooting spree left four people dead.
The bulk of the approximately $1 million reward offered during the Southern California manhunt for a murderous ex-police officer will go to a couple held captive by Christopher Dorner in the hours before he died in a fiery exchange with law enforcement, the LAPD announced Tuesday.
Two other parties – a tow-truck driver who spotted the fugitive at a gas station, and a ski resort worker who found Dorner’s burned-out truck in a ski resort area – will also receive a portion of the reward.
Twelve parties filed claims on the reward.
Among the rejected claimants are a man who claims to have predicted Dorner’s demise in detail, a woman who had a “vision” of a storage facility that may have belonged to Dorner but did not tell police, and a man who let officers use his cellphone after a deadly shootout with Dorner in Riverside, Calif.
Tuesday's ruling eliminates Rick Heltebrake, who was carjacked by Dorner, from receiving any reward money because although his phone call tipped agents to Dorner, law enforcement had already spotted and engaged in gunfire with the fugitive in Heltebrake's pickup truck, the memorandum notes.
Heltebrake in April said he intended to sue the city to get the money.
Held captive by Dorner in their Big Bear area cabin, Karen and James Reynolds will receive 80 percent of the reward.
The couple stumbled upon Dorner on Feb. 12. A former Navy reservist who served tours overseas, Dorner methodically tied up the pair, telling them he knew they had seen him on the news and that he did not want to hurt them.
He then left the cabin and, according to law enforcement, commandeered the couple’s Nissan sport utility vehicle. Dorner later crashed the Nissan and carjacked a white pickup truck, authorities said. A shootout, standoff and inferno inside a separate cabin followed the double car thefts.
After about 15 minutes in captivity, Karen Reynolds was able to roll onto her knees, scoot over to the bed and get onto her feet. She hopped into the living room, where she noticed her cellphone was on the coffee table, which she used to call 911. Agents found Dorner 30 minutes later.
Unlike the other parties who laid claim to the reward, the Reynolds were deemed “instrumental” in finding Dorner.
Daniel McGowan, who will receive 15 percent of the reward pot, was driving to work along an unpaved fire road in Big Bear Lake on Feb. 7 when he came across Dorner’s burning truck.
That discovery, the memorandum notes, gave law enforcement vital information that pinpointed Dorner’s location in the mountain community, where they zeroed in.
“Had Mr. McGowan failed to contact authorities in a timely fashion, Dorner would have had a chance to flee the area,” the memorandum reads.
A tow-truck driver whose sighting of Dorner resulted in a police pursuit and two police shootouts with the fugitive will receive the remaining 5 percent of the reward money.
R. Lee McDaniel spotted Dorner at an AM/PM gas station in Corona early in the morning on Feb. 7.
Remembering a news article describing Dorner’s truck as a gray Nissan Titan, McDaniel returned to his tow truck and used its scanners to read the license plate on a similar truck parked in the lot.
The men made eye contact before McDaniel drove away, followed by Dorner. As McDaniel started to call police, he saw an LAPD squad car pull into the gas station he just left. McDaniel drove across the median to tell officers who he had just seen.
McDaniel’s role in the manhunt, although minimal, “confirmed Dorner’s presence in Southern California … specifically, his presence east of Los Angeles in the Inland Empire,” making his worthy of a portion of the reward, the memorandum noted.
A panel of three judges doled out the reward money based on whether the claimant contacted police with information that helped the investigation and whether that information led to Dorner’s capture.
The City of Riverside and the Peace Officers Research Association of California pulled their portions of the reward money — $100,000 and $50,000 respectively — saying their pledges were contingent on the capture and conviction of Dorner, who died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in a burning cabin.
For the purpose of determining the reward recipients, “there is no requirement that a conviction have resulted, which of course would be impossible in view of the fact that Dorner is dead,” the memorandum stated.
The panel deemed Dorner was “constructively arrested or captured” when agents surrounded the cabin in which he was hiding on Feb. 12.
Dorner killed a newly engaged couple, including the daughter of a former LAPD captain, on Feb. 3 before slaying a Riverside police officer on Feb. 10, and a San Bernardino County Sheriff's detective on Feb. 13.
In a manifesto posted on online, Dorner said his ramapage would end when the LAPD cleared his name after he was fired from the force in 2008. He was accused of falsely accusing fellow officer of kicking a suspect.