Saturday, February 9, 2013

Through My Empirical Lens: A Darkness More Than Dorner

Through My Empirical Lens

Nick Dobis

A Darkness More Than Dorner

Photo Via

Big Bear Lake can be a wonderful and safe place to live. A quaint mountain town nestled in the bosom of the San Bernardino National Forest. As a kid, your mind and body can easily wander away from society, losing your sense of the world in its imminent wilderness. I know this because it is where I was born and raised.

It is also here where Christopher Dorner, the man suspected in three murders this week in Southern California, chose as his location to set fire to his truck and leave only footprints in the snow for law enforcement's massive manhunt. When I received the news the schools where my parents work were under lockdown because Dorner was likely in the area, my stomach dropped faster than a bag of bricks and my anxious mind began to conjure the worst. In the days since the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings last December, receiving this news had been a subtle nightmare of mine. But as the afternoon unfolded and I began to learn more about Christopher Dorner, I eventually realized he is a man  dedicated to the method he crafted in the depths of his madness. A man coldly calculated in his logic, and ruthlessly callous in his intentions.

The story of this former cop transformed into suspected cop murderer reads as chillingly surreal as a Hollywood novella. It begins in 2007 when the former Navy Reserve Lieutenant filed a complaint against his LAPD partner for repeatedly kicking a suspect after they had him in cuffs. Dorner filed the complaint two weeks after the incident, and the LAPD concluded after its investigation Dorner’s complaint was “unfounded”. Dorner was suspended, and later dismissed in January 2009 by the department for filing a false complaint. Dorner tried to sue the LAPD, but inevitably lost his case. In an 18-page manifesto he allegedly wrote and sent to LAPD headquarters, Dorner viciously described an LAPD rife with racism and conspired to bury the truth about his innocence. He vows “…this is a necessary evil that I do not enjoy but must partake and complete for substantial change to occur within the LAPD and reclaim my name.”

That brings us to the events which unfolded this week in the Southland. Dorner began hunting his targets named on the manifesto Sunday evening by allegedly shooting Monica Quan and her fiancĂ© Keith Lawrence to death in Orange County (Quan’s father was involved in the review process leading to Dorner’s dismissal from the LAPD). On Wednesday, an eyewitness saw a man matching Dorner’s description attempting to steal a boat from the Southwestern Yacht Club near San Diego, but his likely escape to Mexico failed when the boat itself failed, but Dorner eluded police once again. Around 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning in Corona, two LAPD officers providing protection for a target in the manifesto engaged with a gun battle supposedly with the suspect, with one sustaining a graze wound to the head. Later that morning, two officers from the Riverside Police Department were ambushed waiting in their patrol car at a stop light. One of the officers was critically wounded and taken to an intensive care unit, the other was killed.

Dorner’s whereabouts became unknown once again until Thursday afternoon, when the truck he was driving was found in flames near Club View Drive in Big Bear Lake. It is at this time local, regional, and elements of national law enforcement descended upon my mountain hometown to engage in a manhunt the likes of which its citizens have never witnessed. Schools were locked down, and a door-to door search was conducted throughout the valley. Despite law enforcement’s efforts, and a winter snow storm which blew in inches of snow and frigid winds dropping the temperature to nearly zero degrees, Dorner still remains at large as of this posting.

As strange as it sounds, I stopped worrying for my family and friends as soon as I realized the location of Dorner’s burning car. Not too far from Club View drive is 2N10, a fire trail which leads up to the southern ridge of the mountain valley. My friends and I used this trail in high school for many of our off-roading exploits. On the other side of the ridge is another valley containing mostly wilderness, an ideal place for this maniacal killer to utilize his military training and survival skills. It is here I think he left a trail as cold as the winter storm he may have used as a cover to once again slip from law enforcement’s fingers.

What frightens me is not the thought of Christopher Dorner lurking and waiting to fulfill his manifesto. Although I hope he is apprehended, or based on his apathy for living in his manifesto, killed soon. What frightens me is the growing number of Dorner admirers which manifested since the LA Times released his manifesto.

Within hours of law enforcement engaging their manhunt in the mountains, an “I support Christopher Jordan Dorner” page on Facebook was created and blossomed in macabre popularity. One posting stated “I don’t doubt that the cops shot up their own just to blame him so everyone can be scared and turned him in.” Thousands flocked to his Facebook page, sending messages of encouragement, fantasizing about his true whereabouts, and commending his cunning elusiveness.

Many responded back in outrage, and the overall number of fans was low, but seeing fellow Americans avidly support a suspected murderer filled my heart with fear for the direction of our country’s moral conscience. When I was a student at Big Bear High School, one of my favorite novels I read for class was “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad. A novel about one man’s journey into the heart of the African continent in the late 19th century, and inevitably into the heart of our species potential for evil. In this passage, the main character is on a boat in the Congo, and witnesses natives intimidating them from the shore:

“It was unearthly, and the men were-No-they were not inhuman…They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity-like yours-the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you-you so remote from the night of first ages-could comprehend...”

I fear some will read the manifesto and lose sight of Dorner’s misplaced sense of self-righteousness and become transfixed with the aspirations of a cold blooded murder. I fear some will ignore Dorner's morbid message to the children of police officers and become inspired by his mostly well composed, but horridly monstrous writings. Violence has been a part of human nature for millennia, as well as a part of American history. But with the breathtaking level of violence our nation has endured within the last year, it makes me wonder how much farther we are from a breaking point. I fear some may look into the images of Christopher Dorner and see themselves.

The German Philosopher Freidrich Nietzsche once stated “When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.” I fear for those who instead of reaching out for help will continue to stare into the abyss, infatuated with their reflection.


  1. Great writing...wonderful thoughts Nick.

    Sharon Meagher (Phil's Mom)

    1. Thank you Sharon, I appreciate that you took time to read it and responded back. Your thoughts are appreciated.