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Dorner's End Rekindles Memories of Another Shootout

Christopher Dorner's final act was taken from the playbook of another notorious figure in L.A. crime history.

Dorner's End Rekindles Memories of Another Shootout Dorner's End Rekindles Memories of Another Shootout

I still remember his name. Cinque. Had no idea what it meant, only that it was the name Donald DeFreeze went by in the Symbionese Liberation Army. And that everybody wanted him.

A lot like Christopher Dorner.

Tuesday had some striking parallels to the SLA shootout, as well as some differences.

Back then, media technology wasn't as advanced. In my town, there were three television channels—four if you included PBS. Yet even without the Internet or cable TV, the SLA was a big, scary deal. It had killed two leaders in the Oakland School District and kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst.

I remember the flames that roared on our television screen and the hail of bullets between the Los Angeles Police Department and the SLA on May 17, 1974. The firefight was shown via one of the first live broadcast hand-held minicams. I was 350 miles away yet had one of the best seats in the house.

Four decades later, technology again had us mesmerized for this modern Old West shootout. We heard gunfire over a cell phone in the remoteness of Big Bear. We saw law enforcement creeping into the forest from the safety of a helicopter. We watched a cabin burn in high definition.

Tuesday was a lot like that day in '74, a moment that becomes indelibly inked in one's memory. Like the North Hollywood shootout, or the pale-by-comparison chase of O.J. Simpson.

The Big Bear gunfight wasn't particularly surprising. After all, did any of us think Christopher Dorner wouldn't be dead at the conclusion of L.A.'s largest manhunt in almost 40 years?

For those of us old enough, we had seen this scenario before. Once Dorner ended up in the cabin, we knew this was about the only way it could end, barring a mad dash and a rain of bullets from the front door.

Six members of the SLA died in the gun battle with the LAPD at 1466 E. 54th Street. About 9,000 rounds were reportedly exchanged over nearly two hours between the good guys and the bad, both firing automatic weapons.

But, ultimately, it was a tear gas canister—or maybe a smoke bomb—that did the dirty work. The house caught fire. The SLA slithered into a crawl space beneath the structure. And, the story goes, Cinque finally put a bullet in his head before burning alive.

Almost 39 years later, Dorner—another man with a manifesto—also found himself in a room with a tear gas canister. Then a blaze.

And finally—apparently—a bullet to escape the heat.

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