If you watched the news today, you saw the strange, new twist in the Christopher Dorner manhunt outside Los Angeles. The former LAPD officer — who’d killed four people, two of them fellow officers and wrote a manifesto promising to kill more — was cornered by police in a vacation house in Big Bear today and then set the place ablaze.
As I write this, the police are pretty sure he died inside the house fire. Pretty sure, but not completely sure. So this might be the end of the biggest manhunt in Los Angeles history. It’s a story worthy of “Law & Order” – angry ex-cop with military survival training, deadly shoot outs with law enforcement, a threatening online manifesto, creepy packages mailed to Anderson Cooper and a $1 million reward.
My heart goes out to the families of the slain officers and the ones named in his manifesto who’ve been living in fear. But I keep thinking that the extreme nature of the story seems almost typical for Los Angeles. Almost every day since I’ve lived here I’ve heard at least one news story that could make it into Lennie Briscoe’s case docket:
- - A urologist in Newport Beach is shot in his doctor’s office by a former patient.
- - The Los Angeles Archdiocese releases files with sexual abuse accusations against 122 local priests.
- - A Canadian tourist, a young woman traveling alone and staying near Skid Row, disappears without a trace.
This is in addition to the regular shootings, car chases and school sex scandals. Now I know where “Law & Order” writers went to rip their headlines.
I know it’s because Los Angeles is a much bigger city than any place I’ve lived before. But I’m no stranger to intense news. I spent five years as a journalist in South Florida, home to the weird and extreme. But rather than a terrifying “Law & Order” vibe, Florida news is more like an issue of National Enquirer crossed with a Carl Hiassen novel and an episode of Duck Dynasty.
There was a man giving butt implants to women in motel rooms using Fix-a-Flat, and the couple that bought street Botox and poisoned themselves in pursuit of wrinkle-free faces. There are pythons in the Everglades eating 70-lb deer, an escaped pet tiger owned by a former Tarzan actor and a woman who got mauled by the cheetahs she kept in her backyard. And there are hanging chads, botched presidential elections and county commissioners busted by the FBI for corruption.
It’s a lighter kind of crazy. More “Castle” than “Law & Order.
And it’s all very different from my last locale. In Minneapolis, it was big news if a company laid off 25 people or a car hit a bicyclist. If Minneapolis were a crime show, it would be “Prairie Home Companion.”
Looks like I’ve traded Garrison Keillor for Jack McCoy!