Dorner manhunt: SWAT officers used "incendiary tear gas" in cabin standoff

Officers engaging in a gun battle with a person they believed to be Christopher Dorner in a San Bernadino cabin lobbed incendiary tear gas into the structure where the ex-cop was holed up. The cabin burned, and authorities believe Dorner was burned alive inside it. A body was retrieved; its identity has not been confirmed.

Hoping to end the standoff, law enforcement authorities first lobbed "traditional" tear gas into the cabin. When that did not work, they opted to use CS gas canisters, which are known in law enforcement parlance as incendiary tear gas. These canisters have significantly more chance of starting a fire. This gas can cause humans to have burning eyes and start to feel as if they are being starved for oxygen. It is often used to drive barricaded individuals out.

More at the LA Times.


      1. We had a similar siege here last year (police got the offender out alive BTW). At the time I read that tear gas is almost impossible to clean up from the inside of a house. You pretty much have to strip it back to the frame and start again, so that cabin was a write off as soon as the police arrived.

      2.  Unfortunately, even if these lawless cops had no intention of giving Dorner a chance to surrender, the government has statutes that free them of liability when government agents destroy and kill in the course of their “duties”.  You can sue them and the government lawyer simply shows the immunity clauses and a judge will summarily dismiss the lawsuit.

        1.  Suing them is a civil matter. If the damages were due to arson, the owner should press criminal charges instead (or additionally).

      3. It’s just as well they set it on fire, could you imagine how much spackle it would have taken to repair the walls from all those bullet holes?

      4. I wonder if the cabin owner can sue for arson.

        Are you on crack? He’ll be charged with harboring a fugitive.

        “They might kill you just for having seen it.”
        — Lt. Ellen Ripley

    1. Amazing video on NYTimes from CBS as well. 

      1.  Good lord, this was no “gun battle”.  This was 40 cops firing their fully automatic weapons into a cabin, hoping to hit one dude inside.  The fuck.

  1. If I was the Sheriff, I wouldn’t want to spend a whole freezing night guarding a static standoff. I’d want to build a nice cozy fire too.

  2. CS gas is the default “tear gas” in the US. CN gas and CR gas are the other two traditional tear gasses but they are significantly more toxic and are thus usually not used in the US. (Not that the US is above using it on us, mind you, they just usually don’t.)

    1.  CS is the typical stuff, yeah –  when I did gas mask drills in the (Norwegian) army a decade ago, they spiced it up with CS gas when we had the basics down.

  3. Read the manifesto here. Seems like Dorner was pushed over the edge. It’s hard to discern the truth in a case like this, but all I felt reading his manifesto was this was a man who took the world’s injustices very personally. It made me sad for him and angry at the world that created him. 

    None of that excuses murder, I don’t condone what Dorner did, but I think I can identify, a bit, with how he must have felt, having his name dragged through the mud for standing up for what he believed in.

    1.  If that’s what happened. I’m not sure I believe his Falling Down defense as he pretty much lost the argument when he started killing innocent people.

      1. It seems to me the LAPD is the wrong place for a man who takes “the world’s injustices very personally.”

      2. By the same logic the US lost its War on Terrorism (at least) when it killed Anwar al-Awlaki’s son, who had done nothing except, paraphrasing Presidential Spokesghoul Robert Gibbs, to have a distasteful father.

      3. As though he was the only cop on the LAPD that ever killed an innocent person. Somehow the murderers who shut their mouths and circle the wagons always seem to be the ones who win the argument.

        EH also has a great point about “collateral damage.”  Our way of life kills innocent people in other countries.  So I guess we all lose the argument.

    2. That’s one of the versions that has a whole lot of crazy added.  Here’s what I’m told was the earliest version to surface:

    3.  Oh, man. I wish I hadn’t read that, it left me feeling sick to my stomach and terribly sad. There are moments that I think hint at a generally good and thoughtful man mixed in with the rage and batshit crazy and evil. How does someone go so far off the deep end?

      1. He was deeply concerned with matters of honor and justice.  He witnessed those ideals compromised in heinous ways, and tried to put an end to them the way he was taught: through official channels.

        But rather than fixing things, the system punished him hard for trying to address injustice.  I imagine the lesson he took away from that is that there is literally no way to reform the LAPD.  He saw and experienced upsetting things, and knew that similar things were continuing to happen even after he was fired.  But he learned that the mechanisms which were supposed to address this injustice were a joke.  There was no way to get justice, but he felt an overwhelming need for it.

        It’s understandable why faced with this situation, an ex-marine would reach for the most extreme tool available to him: war.

        We can avoid more Dorners by building a healthy and militant movement against police misconduct.  Not the aenemic ACLU/oversight board stuff, but serious on-the-ground action against crooked cops.  A movement which actually scares and threatens police departments, gets cops fired and jailed frequently.  We need this so that when people get screwed over by the cops and feel that raging need for justice, there’s something real they can do to actually get justice other than going Rambo.

  4. You know, for as unhinged Dorner was and how terrible the things he did were….I think the cops’ actions in response and the general way they’ve proceeded has scared me a hell of a lot more. 

    1.  I feel the same way.  I don’t think Dorner’s actions as justified but I also don’t see him as either insane psychotic killer monster nor do I see him as an example of heroism whatsoever.  However, this does not mean I support the actions of the LAPD before and during this debacle.  Even excluding the fiasco involving shooting up a truck with two defenseless women, I find it credible that Dorner tried to right a wrong when he saw a homeless man get brutalized and kicked by fellow LAPD.  I find it credible that his whistleblowing attempts turned into a massive smear campaign that got him fired – because just as in any opaque crime syndicate, nobody likes a “snitch”, nobody likes a whistleblower in the LAPD. 
      Dorner simply happened to be a guy that wouldn’t lie down and take it like probably every cop who tried to speak out against the LAPD.  Just like any abusive bullying system, some small number of individuals will simply refuse to lie down.  I don’t think it takes an angel or a monster to hold certain principles above safety.  It just takes a certain type of man.

  5. Since the cops had already tried to take Dorner out extra-judicially (shoot first, ask questions later, realize that the driver of the pickup wasn’t Dorner) did anyone really think they would try (or be able to) take him alive?

    1. No way.  A summary execution in the United States or him fleeing to asylum elsewhere were the only outcomes I envisioned.  LAPD clearly had no interest in due process.  They’re far more frightening than Dorner is/was.

  6. I’ve done about as much talking about Dorner as I can take for a few days, but something else came out of this for me: Twitter is fucking useless.

    I read an article about Dorner’s alleged death (the alleged being, is that body his?), and the official mainstream media story seems to be that it is “unknown” how the cabin caught fire. Meanwhile, if you watched Twitter, while all this was going down, hundreds of people were listening to police scanners and reported hearing a very clear and definite statement by cops on the scene that they were deploying “flamers” (incendiary teargas) and intentionally burned the cabin.

    I went to search for any of these tweets to pull up links to police scanner recordings (there were mp3s linked). Twitter can’t find ANY of it. This is practically a current event, and it couldn’t find anything past about seven hours for “dorner flamer” (and I know tweets containing those exact two terms, or “flamers”, I tried both, were in relevant tweets).

    GG, Twitter. Go to Twitter for the news as it happens, not for verifiability or persistance.

      1. I was actually here to talk about Twitter, not Dorner, lol, but thank you for preemptively providing sources for what prompted me to make this observation about Twitter in the first place. :D

  7. When I was in the service (late 90’s) CS was commonly used to train soldiers to properly wear their gas masks. We never caught fire. It’s horrible stuff, but CS doesn’t start fires.
     What exactly is ‘incendiary’ tear gas? Who cares about the tear gas effect if you’re burning alive?

    1. The gas itself isn’t incendiary, but the method of dispersal can be.

      M-651 rounds have CS stabilized in a solid, flammable plug of resin.  When the round impacts the ground or a wall, the plug is ignited by percussion.  As the plug burns, it produces a jet of hot CS-laden vapor that shoots out of a single hole in the body of the round, causing it to spin around and roll.  

      Flite-Rite barricade rounds, used at Waco along with the M-651, burn a mixture that includes sugar and guncotton to make CS smoke.

      For the type of hotbox CS training you mentioned, they melt tablets containing CS to create a vapor that fills the room.

      It’s worth noting that there are many non-incendiary devices for CS deployment, including dry-powder rounds that break open on impact like a bag of flour, dry-powder grenades that pack CS crystals around a small explosive charge, and CS crystals suspended in inert propellants (like some fire extinguishers) and sprayed onto things or into things…

      But who doesn’t love a fire?

      1. Exactly.  Neither CS or CN cause the fire, the method of turning the projectiles into gas does.  And has been doing so for decades.  Go back to the SLA shootout, around 1975, the tear gas burned the house down.  If you just want to gas the house, go upwind of it and use a pepper fogger.  The wind will carry it down to the house.  If you feel the need, throw some rocks to break the windows to be sure it gets in.  Decades into the use of gas, it is at best disingenuous to claim that the fire is an accident.  It is a predictable result.

        However, another thing to be aware of is gas tends to not work very well on crazy people.

        When I took the Chemical Agents Instructor course, we fired live rounds into a building.  Not all of them went off.  Since you can’t leave live ordnance on the range, we had to go in to get them out so we could put them on a bonfire.  This was the point we found out that the instructors had not brought any gas masks.  So I walked in and began chucking the rounds out.  Breath control is the key, breath slowly and through some cloth.  After I finished I just stood and faced the wind for a while.

        Gas is not a big deal.

        1.  There’s also the fun fact that it’s possible to be immune to CS – something like 1‰ of the recruits here (Norway) are apparently near-enough unaffected by it. (Rumor has it the Sami are overrepresented.)

        2. I guess San Bernardino County didn’t get the “fire can cause fire” memo.

          I’d like to hear their rationale for switching to incendiary canisters after getting no joy from their non-incendiary applications.  If he hasn’t come running out of the building in tears, what do you assume?  That the gas didn’t reach him, that it didn’t affect him, or that he has protection?

          If he’s protected from inhalation and physical contact, it won’t make any difference whether the gas comes from a hot canister or a cold aerosol spray.  Same thing if he’s immune.  If it didn’t reach him, why not?  A barricade that stops aerosol and dry-dispersal devices will stop a canister.  They have armored vehicles for poking holes in walls, so poke some more holes.

          Or one could change tack.  What makes no sense at all is the supposed urgency of the situation.  The man was surrounded, alone, in a small compound where all possible exits could be observed 24/7.  News anchors talked about the desire to end the standoff before nightfall.  Why?  They could easily get access to night-vision equipment on the ground and FLIR-equipped aircraft (which would work better at night, anyway).  How the hell would he benefit from the night?

    2. What Aaron said.  When I was in Army basic training at Fort Campbell, KY, in 1972, part of the training was how to use smoke bombs and tear gas against an occupied building.  We were given dummy rounds to practice with, because the drill instructors didn’t want the new wooden hut to burn down like the previous one had.

  8. Xeni, ever since the LA Times started to display their subscribe-before-reading popup box on their site, I haven’t been able to get to the text of a story on

    I suspect this is happening to several other folks too, as I’ve experienced it on three different computers with different browsers.

    Perhaps it’s worth not linking to that site until this problem is fixed? For me, it started happening about a week ago.

    1. I’m not getting any requests to log in at the LA Times, either.  What have you done that you’re required to identify yourself, citizen?

      1. It isn’t a request to log in, but rather a pop-up box that appears asking you to purchase a subscription.

        When you decline their invitation to purchase a subscription, the site takes you back to the main page, rather than leaving you on the story page.

      1. First thing I checked. Flushed my browser cache and the whole deal. But when I follow the link in the story, I’m given the popup box and my attempts to dismiss it simply take me back to the main page.

        Any subsequent attempt to click the link again results in the same behavior.

        I’ve written to the Times, but I hold no hope of even a reply, let alone an actual fix.

        1. I use a popup blocker, which is probably why I never saw this.  I’d guess that the popup you got has some Javascript that tries to enforce your participation.  No popup, no script.

          Try turning on popup blocking (if your browser has it), or turning off Javascript (and if your browser doesn’t have *that* ability, you need another browser). 

          Running without JS makes you harder to track anyway.  Regrettably, Disqus won’t work without it.

  9. This article is completely useless. They talk about use of “traditional” tear gas then switching to CS. But nearly all tear gas used today IS CS gas. I don’t know exactly what equipment they where using but it would have been nice if this writer knew ANYTHING about tear gas so they could have written a sensible article.

  10. Are you people insane? How can anyone even remotely sympathize with this brazen murderer? Because he watches CNN and likes Piers Morgan, so, well, how bad can he be? 

    He executed two defenseless innocents, ambushed and murdered a cop in Riverside, kidnapped two people, and killed a deputy in the gun battle leading to the stand-off at the cabin. This guy got exactly what he deserved and probably what he wanted. 

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