BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. (AP) – Fugitive ex-policeman Christopher Dorner was hiding at least five days in a mountain condominium before surprising the owners, tying them up and stealing their car just hours before his death in a fiery confrontation with police, the couple said.
Karen and Jim Reynolds said Dorner was upstairs in their rental condo in the San Bernardino Mountains around noon Tuesday when they arrived to clean it to rent to vacationers.
The building is across the street from a command post established by authorities as they scoured the mountain for Dorner.
The fired Los Angeles policeman, who was sought at the time for three killings, confronted the Reynoldses with a drawn gun, “jumped out and hollered `stay calm,'” Jim Reynolds, 66, said during a Wednesday night news conference.
His 56-year-old wife screamed and ran down the staircase but Dorner caught her, Reynolds said.
“He said, `I don’t have a problem with you, so I’m not going to hurt you,'” Jim Reynolds said. “I didn’t believe him, I thought he was going to kill us.”
Authorities have not corroborated the couple’s account, which matches early reports from law enforcement officials that a couple had been tied up and their car stolen by a man resembling Dorner.
The Reynoldses emerged Wednesday night in Big Bear Lake to hold a brief news conference to clarify that they were the ones held by Dorner _ not two cleaning women, as was widely reported.
The confusion over who was held was apparently the result of Karen Reynolds’ 911 call, in which she said she was concerned for two house cleaners working in the next unit.
The manhunt, one of the largest in recent memory, began last week after Dorner was linked to the killings of a former Los Angeles police captain’s daughter and her fiance. He also is accused of killing two law enforcement officers.
After surprising Dorner in the cabin, the Reynoldses said they were taken to a bedroom where they were ordered to lie on a bed and then the floor. Dorner bound their arms and legs with plastic ties, gagged them with towels and covered their heads with pillowcases wrapped with extension cords, they said.
“I really thought it could be the end,” Karen Reynolds said.
The couple believes Dorner had been staying in the cabin at least since Friday. Dorner told them he had been watching them by day from inside the cabin as they did work outside. The couple, who live nearby, only entered the unit Tuesday.
“He said we are very hard workers, we’re good people. He talked about how he could see Jim working on the snow every day,” Karen Reynolds said.
Dorner repeatedly told the couple he just wanted to clear his name. He was calm and methodical during the 15-minute ordeal and didn’t talk about the people he’s accused of shooting, she said.
At one point, Jim Reynolds said, “he huddled down beside me and said `You’re going to be quiet, right? Not make a fuss and let me get away?'”
Dorner then fled in their purple Nissan Rogue.
A short time later, Karen Reynolds was able to get to her feet and call 911 from a cellphone on the coffee table.
“Dorner tied us up, and he’s in Big Bear,” she recalled telling the dispatcher.
The couple returned to their home Thursday morning, but would not speak with news media gathered outside. They did not immediately return several phone calls for comment by The Associated Press.
Authorities say Dorner later carjacked another man, shot at game wardens and killed a deputy in a shootout then holed up in another cabin that caught fire after tear gas was lobbed inside. The remains found inside were positively identified Thursday as Dorner.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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