The case of L.A.-cop-turned-L.A.-cop-killer Christopher Dorner may have closed with his fiery death, but now authorities have to figure out who, if anyone, should get the $1.2-millon cash reward for cracking the case on the once and former most wanted man in California. Richard Winton of the Los Angeles Times looks at the leading candidates, starting with a Boy Scout camp ranger who was "lucky" enough to get carjacked by Dorner shortly before his location was discovered. Rick Heltebrake (pictured at right) has filed a claim for the reward, based on the fact that he called 9-1-1 after the carjacking and told police what had happened. Dorner ditched the car shortly after stealing it and then fled to the nearby cabin, where police eventually surrounded him.
That was a pretty good tip, but it wasn't the only one out of hundreds of suggestions that police received Most were bogus, and a few actually threw police off track, even though still others actually aided in the investigation — and those callers could all get a stake of the claim.
Take this nice retired couple, Jim and Karen Reynolds. They were some of the last people to actually speak to Dorner while he was alive, after he broke into their house, tied them up, and stole their car. They also called 9-1-1 on Dorner, which helped narrow the search to the area around Big Bear. The couple was almost giddy when telling their story to the media later, but there's no way to know if it was because they were happy to be alive, to be a part of history, or if someone had just told them about the big payday.
There's another issue that has to be taken into consideration. The $1.2 million is not just one reward—it's a combination of several offerings that were donated by various organizations, including several different police departments. Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck has said that "Our personal hope is that the reward will be distributed," but each of those groups could have a say in how the money is distributed—or if it should be distributed at all. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who first publicly floated the idea of a million-dollar reward as a statewide manhunt overtook pretty much every freeway sign in Southern California, has said that "at least three people could qualify." (Our emphasis.) But some have already argued that Villaraigosa, who's on his way out of office, intentionally left a loophole in his offer, by stating that Dorner had to be "captured." Since he was dead before police could arrest him, that technically didn't happen.
Heltebrake, a park ranger at a Boy Scouts-owned camp near Big bear, already has a response:
When you're captured you're not free to leave," he said. "Well he was in the cabin and he wasn't free to leave."
Considering the bureaucracy of a place as big as Los Angeles (it was part of Dorner's manifesto), and the fact that Heltebrake has already lawyered up, finding out who gets what — if anything at all — could take much, much longer than it did to find Dorner.