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SWAT Deputies Used Hot Gas on Dorner

February 13, 2013  | 

When cold gas failed to flush Chris Dorner out of a remote cabin, San Bernardino County (Calif.) Sheriff's SWAT deputies used hot gas, an incendiary tool that could have caused the fire that engulfed the cabin.

A law enforcement official told the Los Angeles Times deputies deployed hot gas, a more intense chemical agent that has been known to inadvertently cause fires inside dwellings.

SWAT operators likely launched a hot gas canister—filled with a chemical agent such as CN, CS, or OC—into the cabin off Route 38 where deputies and Dorner engaged in an intense gun battle Tuesday afternoon.

A distraction device containing chemical agents such as CN or CS can be thrown as a grenade-like device or deployed with a less-lethal launcher (37mm or 40mm) or 12-guage shotgun.

Several media outlets, including the United Kingdom-based Mirror, have reported that SWAT officers can be heard yelling "Burn it down" on news audio clips from the incident. However, burning down the cabin may not have been the officers' intention, Robert O'Brien, a retired Cleveland SWAT commander, told POLICE Magazine.

"That may have been an intentional outcome," O'Brien said. "They knew that the cold gas wasn't working. Hot gas is a much more concentrated, more powerful version."

San Bernardino Sheriff John McMahon told reporters Wednesday that his deputies didn't intentionally set fire to the cabin, reports the Los Angeles Times. The sheriff said SWAT deputies used "burners," a pyrotechnic-type less-lethal munition, reports USA Today.

Authorities continue to investigate the cause of the fire and attempt to identify the charred body found in the cabin's basement. Dorner's location in the basement suggests that the chemical agent was effective, O'Brien added.

"You're intending to drive him out of his barricade," O'Brien said. "You've got a cornered rat. This guy's in a fight mode, so you have to drive him out any way you can. The gas did its job. It drove him into the basement."

By Paul Clinton

Comments (29)

Displaying 1 - 29 of 29

Foster @ 2/14/2013 12:24 AM

To state that it was not likely the intention of officers to burn down the cabin is simply asinine. Listen to the audio of the police scanner.
If hot gas has been known to "inadvertently" cause fires, why would they refer to it as "the burner". "The burner is deployed and we have a fire" They also mention "like we talked about" sounds like premeditation murder to me.

C @ 2/14/2013 6:03 PM

SWAT 101 -----Anytime smoke is deployed in an enclosed place, a home for example, the possibility of fire is high. Thus smoke in a house = deadly force. So only deploy smoke in enclosed area if you are authorized and intend on using deadly force. In the event that and armed suspect with no intent on surrendering is smoked, which in this case would be justified and necessary for the safely of the Officers on scene. The suspect has but two choices as the smoke is deployed. The suspect can exit or stay. Obviously Fire crews are not going to attempt to extinguish a fire where and armed suspect is. So if the suspect chooses to stay, (bad choice), burn he will. Premeditated murder? absolutely not, it is a text book response to dealing with an armed and dangerous individual with no notion of surrender.

Chuck Haggard @ 2/14/2013 6:08 PM

Foster, your comment is assine. Even if they burned the cabin down on purpose it is NOT "murder". Dorner is the murderer in this case, and he needed to be stopped before he killed anyone else. Period.

Clearly reasonable force under Graham and Garner doctrine.

Read more, post less is my advice.

A @ 2/14/2013 6:29 PM

Interesting article yet I dont see this increasing the LAPD public trust image. This will definitely have public attention for some time. I think the deadly force argument above is valid, based off Dorners demeanor and previous actions. What Im skeptical about is the scenario and outcome of shooting the other truck with the two ladies.. Is that a justifiable articulable fact, opening fire without confirming the suspect was inside? The officers at the cabin had plenty of reason to justify the force used, the general public may never understand..

Tom Ret @ 2/14/2013 6:30 PM

Foster-This is a police forum so go spout your bs somewhere else or hug
a tree dumb ass.

john @ IA retired @ 2/14/2013 7:07 PM

Obviously Dorner had some very serious issues. Was he treated fairly or unfairly when he lost his job as an LEO? Sorry I don't have those details and I certainly am not making excuses for him. I'm looking at the future. Did an administrator do what was politically correct? Were there signs that were missed with Dorner that if caught in time might have prevented what happened? Or was he just one of those people who, that no matter what was done for him, would have committed these crimes? We can not let this happen again.

Rick @ 2/14/2013 7:45 PM

As a former tactical officer and being trained as a crisis negotiator, i don't see the need for hot gas rounds. There was no threat while he was barricaded and the SWAT team could have waited him out. There was no need to 'flush' him out as there were no hostages and he was surrounded; besides, who authorized LAPD SWAT to take over. Crisis negotiations 101 is to keep anyone that antagonizes the subject the heck out of the scene and keep them from communicating with the subject.

SBSD @ 2/14/2013 7:57 PM

“A” I would just like to give you and the other some perspective from a deputy who was there, who is very proud of what was done. LAPD had nothing to do with this whole Dorner incident. LAPD command staff is nothing more than glory hounds looking to get their politically correct faces on camera. LAPD acted very unprofessionally at many levels during this whole manhunt. First let me remind you none of Dorner’s crimes occurred in LAPD’s jurisdiction yet you would think they were running the whole manhunt. One news story after another was about the LAPD. What a joke they are and we are not happy with them. While we were busy exchanging rounds with Dorner in our county with our SWAT team LAPD conducts a press conference informing the media about our incident. WTF! Has anyone ever heard of another agency having a press conference about what another agency is doing? BS! Then to show just how arrogant they are during the SWAT incident we did not need help from anybody. Our SWAT team had it well in hand and frankly our team is much better than the sissy LAPD SWAT. Yet LAPD SWAT ran past our road blocks to get to the incident location when they were not wanted, needed, invited or in their jurisdiction. They also flew in a helicopter with more SWAT members and tried to insert into the location. With all their vehicles including a big rig they blocked all the roads causing our equipment delays getting to the location. LAPD is a joke. They were running for the cameras to attempt to gain glory for themselves when they had nothing to do with nothing. It was also done premeditatedly to distract attention from the fact LAPD almost killed two old ladies when the misidentified what they thought was Dorner’s vehicle in Torrance. Talk about a bad shooting with absolutely no justification. Wow. We took care of Dormner when LAPD could not take care of him in Carona earlier when they could not shoot straight. The worst part is now our deputy is dead a RP

Doc @ 2/14/2013 8:04 PM

Lethal force was justified in this case, he had just shot 2 more officers, killing one of them. They could have dropped Napalm on him and not heard any complaints from me. This guy had murdered and attempted to murder people, and got what he deserved, and the only loss in the fire was the cabin. I hope the cabin was insured and I hope the scum will continue to burn, now the dead can rest in peace, because he won't kill anyone else.

Tom Ret @ 2/14/2013 8:51 PM

If the officers on the scene didn't press the attack on the cabin and allowed Dorner to slip out during darkness and kill more people, the pundits would be going wild and rightfully so. It was apparent that with another officer killed and one wounded in the midst of hundreds of rounds being exchanged, Dorner was not going to negotiate. Pressing the attack was the right thing to do. Whether LAPD did this or that wrong is irrespective of the bravery, sacrifice and good work the officers did when confronting Dorner. Dorner shot himself so the fire is irrelevant even though it no doubt hastened his decision. If Dorner remained in the cabin, assuming he could have been contained, the result would have been the same. He would have died one way or another.

SBSD @ 2/14/2013 9:07 PM

Tom Ret. It was the bravery on deputy sheriffs not officers. You would not understand unless you were a deputy. Also LAPD's actions do matter when thier actions contribute to the death of a deputy brother. It is a damn big deal! Also LAPD's actions at the shoot out caused us serious porblems in the middle of major incident. When you are taking rounds it is a damn big deal when another agency hinders your operation. I was there. I know who was brave and who were looking for recognition.

Deputy B @ 2/14/2013 9:12 PM

Justified? Yes. And Hell YES!! What bothers me more than anything else in this matter is this: L.A.P.D. initiated this. And I.E. had to pay for it. I know that is callous to say, but I am angry. I do not know all the facts of Dorner's termination. And I am not expecting anyone to have foreseen this terror unfold as a result of his termination. What I hated was all the LAPD Media hounds putting their faces on camera, while MY guys are in a gun battle, and two of my partners are on their way to the hospital. To have to sit and watch at home, while my S.O. brothers are fighting for their lives. (Yes, I also work for San Bernardino County Sheriff). Then they have the balls to confirm with the media that THEIR suspect has been burned in the cabin? WTF!!! It took them 3 hours to come out and say, "Oh by the way, any news that Dorner is in there is unconfirmed. It is too hot to make entry at this time." Well no @#$% Copernicus!! And, it was not their call to make. It was SBSD's crime scene at that time. LAPD just needed to STFU!!! This was a terrible series of events because of a lunatic. I would like to see the FBI investigate the termination and see if there is any truth to Dorner's claims. Not that it justifies his actions, but it would shed some light on things. Beck said he will reopen the file. Really!!! Wasn't it your team that made the termination? If nothing was wrong, why do YOU need to reopen it. To appease the community? Sad. You should have done it right the first time.

Tom Ret @ 2/14/2013 11:55 PM

SBSD-I understand your sensitivity because you have lost one of your own but you have misunderstood what I wrote or at least meant to say. I was using the term "officer" generically, not in reference to any specific branch of law enforcement. Any of us who have spent a career in law enforcement, appreciate the sacrifice of the deputy and others in law enforcement who gave their lives while trying to apprehend Dorner. I am not disputing your views of LAPD in this incident nor am I associated with LAPD. As you say, you were there, I wasn't. Law enforcement who were engaging Dorne showed courage and determination to get the job done which they did well under trying circumstances.

Foster @ 2/15/2013 1:32 AM

I'm not defending Dorner here. I agree this individual brought this upon himself. That being said I recommend you guys take the time to find the cause of his actions. What pushed him to this point? Read his manifesto.. something smells foul and its coming from the LAPD.
I also encourage you to listen to the police scanner audio. The intent was not to smoke Dorner out, it was to burn his to death.

Foster @ 2/15/2013 1:35 AM

I love it how all these law enforcement officers do not see a problem with killing an individual rather than bring him to trial. By killing Dorner you have only let him off easy. Justice was not served.... he didn't have to face the music.. they killed him.

Foster @ 2/15/2013 1:38 AM

Big ups to SBSD... something stinks with the LAPD.... has for years. Make ever and all officers wear head cameras when interacting with the public. Do not forget you are PUBLIC SERVANTS.

John @ 2/15/2013 1:40 AM

Let's assume for a second that there was still something called "truth" here in this country.....
Anyone who heard the scanner recordings with multiple officers making statements such as, "deploy the burners", "let's burn this house down like we talked about", "Burn that MotherF*cker down!", "The burners are deployed and we have a fire", etc, cannot in good conscience say that the burning down of that cabin with Dorner inside of it was not a 100% intentional and deliberate act. Come on people, really? They told the media to stop taping just before they set it on fire and the statements recorded are cut and dried. We all know what happened there, it is just a matter whether the people and organizations involved are going to be truthful about it.
To be blunt, based on the obvious evidence already available, anyone who says that it was not a deliberate and planned event is either an idiot or a bald faced liar. So, gentle reader, which category do you belong in? Are you going to tell the truth, are you a total liar, or are you just a complete idiot who cannot think for yourself?

Foster @ 2/15/2013 1:41 AM

You guys are the law... investigate. Start with Dorner's manifesto

SBSD @ 2/15/2013 5:57 AM

Foster and John, let me take a moment to educate you. Yes there is the truth and give me a chance to explain it to you guys. I see that you are not cops or SWAT operators so terms and methods and the law may be foreign to you. First you must know the term “burner” is a slang term for pyrotechnic tear gas. It is referred to as a burner because the tear gas is “burning” inside the canister which atomizes the particles far smaller than “cold gas”. Burners are far more effective and yes we said burners on the air a lot. We also say “execute” on the air a lot as well but we are referring to a plan not the suspect. This is not a movie or TV. Dorner was given days to surrender and he did not. Dorner was in the cabin about 4 hours and was given orders to surrender and he answered by shooting at us. He was heavily armed, refused to surrender and nuts. What did you want us to do? We had used everything possible and the burners were the very last resort. There were dozens of uninvited and unwanted law enforcement in the area that had to be told to move back. Many of them said all kinds of stupid things. The scene was chaos to say the least. You guys sound like conspiracy theory folks. I can tell you there was no conspiracy with us and LAPD. We don’t even like them and our relationship is shaky at best. I have read Dorners manifesto and listened to the tape of people saying burn it down. Whatever LAPD did to Dorner does not justify his actions. Dorner was a coward and a punk. I was there and I know what happened. It is called justifiable homicide. Look it up. It was the only option.

Ronald @ 2/15/2013 7:47 AM

I am an Assistant Police Chief and all I have to say to you guys. First I am so sorry for your lost and the familys lost of the hero officers. Second GOOD job guys my hats off to all of you and I would be proud to have each and everyone of you under my command. Thanks for doing a great job all of you shoukd be commended !!!!!!

Leroy Montgomery @ 2/15/2013 10:20 AM

The cabin was surrounded and the "cold" gas had driven Dorner to the basement. He was not firing at officers. Yet rather than waiting him out for what would have been likely just a few minutes, the officers fired thousands of rounds into the cabin and then used devices with well-documented incendiary effect. They also spoke openly about burning Dorner and that audio was captured by news media and others and is now on the internet. It's very hard to make a credible claim that the officers did not intend to kill Dorner. It's very hard to claim that they had any intention of taking him alive.

Gloria Hunter @ 2/15/2013 3:10 PM

IT IS NOT A "MURDER" for those cops to burn the cabin down. Dorner IS the murderer. He could have surrendered, but he chose to kill officers and himself. There is NOT ONE GOOD REASON for Dorner to do what he did! (PERIOD!!). Did he deserve to die? That was HIS choice. People who are now trying to put any kind of blame on the cops are assine. They did what they had to do...and that's that!!!

wescrume @ 2/15/2013 4:39 PM

Please accept my humble apologies for your recent incidents. You guys did a great job in your response to the tragic events. Sorry for your loss. I would also like to apologize for all of the "haters" on here. They weren't there and they have NO reason to comment. Me thinks that they just like to hear and see their words in print. DF's we call them. It was your department's incident and crime scene. ATF and the FBI could have helped, but the other agency certainly didn't have JURISDICTION. Unless your Sheriff requested their assistance, and had an MOU in place. I'm also sorry that you guys and gals were placed in that specific situation. Hold your heads up. You did the right thing. Take care.

SBSD @ 2/16/2013 4:18 AM

Leroy Montgomery you are either writing out of ignorance or you are a liar. You haven’t any firsthand knowledge or you would not write such falsehoods. You also haven’t any SWAT knowledge either. Dorner had almost 4 hours to give up. He had almost 2 hours after cold gas. He did not give up even after many attempts. He was not static in the cabin. He moved around in and out of the basement. Leroy it is very hard for you to make a creditable claim when you clearly engage in half-truths and lies. I am sure your president Obama will make it all right for you. Dorner killed himself before the cabin caught fire so your whole point is without merit anyway.
Wescrume thank you for the kind words they are much appreciated. Yes FBI or ATF could have helped if we needed it. The point was we just did not need the help. We are a large department and had all we needed but everyone wanted in on the action and they just got in the way. Also the feds had no jurisdiction in this case either. It is widely known in the SWAT community that regional FBI SWAT teams are not up to par with teams in the southwest. Most of them have never actually been on a real SWAT call. They only serve “high risk” arrest warrants and call them SWAT operations. And what they consider a high risk warrant is not what most SWAT teams consider high risk. And on the high risk warrants the just surround and call out. Hardly what most would consider true tactical experience?

Tom Ret @ 2/16/2013 7:20 PM

Unfortunately, there are those in our society, some of whom have commented on this forum, who will blame the police no matter what they do, yet they have never had any skin in the game or any idea what they are talking about. For some reason, they have it in their mind that Dorner's murders weren't so bad because of his manifesto and reasons for hating LAPD. They have also concluded that what Dorner said was accurate and truthful. They also seem to think that the deputies in this case and others in law enforcement should sacrifice themselves if necessary in some noble attempt in bringing Dorner into custody and subsequent trial even when Dorner indicated he wouldn't be taken alive and planned on murdering until stopped. I do believe law enforcement today is a harder job than when I worked because of the general lack of support for police and unrealistic expectations. When people can't distinguish between good and evil anymore, it is not a reflection on the police but the general moral decay of our nation. I would be very surprised to see any of those commenting negatively on the handling of this shootout cavalierly putting their lives at risk when the bullets were flying. Back in the early 70s when I started, police actually shot fleeing felons and there was little to no public outcry for the criminals.

Doug @ 2/17/2013 8:26 PM

Wow... Just read the various comments and I am surprised to say the least at some of the opinions that have been expressed... A man writes a manifesto, declares war on not only the police, but on their families as well. This same man then gets in another shootout with another group of Officers and shoots two, killing one of them...
If you watch the video, listen to the battle that is raging... Were statements recorded about burning? Yes. Were they appropriate? Yes... People need to remember that Deadly Force is Deadly Force. In this situation the suspect was using Deadly Force against the authorities, and they had not only every right, but also the responsibility to control the situation by using whatever force that was necesssary. Including Deadly Force by employing Hot Gas in the cabin... The suspect could have placed his weapon on the ground at any time and walked out of the cabin... His choice however was to end his own life. To say these officers did anything other than a heroic act in a trying circumstance is a travesty. As I left the Sheriff's Office where I work in Idaho, I told those I work with that hot gas would be used before the sun went down to either force the suspect out, or to end the situation. Anything less than that would be foolish of a Tactical Commander. Good Job to everyone involved, and may the lord bless those who have Loved and Lost.

Nichole @ 2/18/2013 3:19 AM

I don't care if it was intentional or not. This guy, although he had issues that probably needed psychiatric help, was an animal and wasn't going to go down easily. But I do have one concern, or rather something that confuses me. The Ret. Commander O'Brien said that the gas is meant to "drive them out of their barricade" and "it did it's job, it drove him to the basement."

Wouldn't the basement be a worse place for the officers to have to go in and try to apprehend Dorner? They would be going into unknown territory, dark, and without knowing where he could possibly be.

From that statement alone, it sounds like it's job was to burn the cabin down and send him to the basement to perish, or out into the open into a hail of gunfire.

Again, I don't feel bad for Dorner in any way, I'm just saying that it sounds like they intentionally burned the place down. They should just come out and say it. The job is done.

Ronald @ 2/18/2013 5:55 AM

To all you police haters (thats what you must be) Do you really think that one more officer should have been killed by Dorner? You seem to think he deserved to live more than the officers that died and the officers on the scene trying to get him to give up. I guess you think that the officers just went ther and shot hot gas into the house. Are you forgetting how long this stand off went on and how many officers were shot. Those officers used hot gas as a last resort. It is Doner who is at fault here not the officers. He could have give up and been judged by his peers but he chose death. Its just so sad that he took other good people with him. So I will say it again GOOD job guys I hope all of you receive a well deserved commendation from your department. And guys watch your backs as you can tell from some of these posting there are a lot of police haters and that makes the future Doners. So since all you haters feel so bad for Doner (a murder) maybe you should tatoo his name on your body, in support of him that way we will know who you are (FIP)

DG @ 2/22/2013 9:41 AM

Prior to LE entering any gas into the residence, Dorner was deploying his own smoke inside the residence. They "burn" the same way hot gas does so it is entirely likely he started the fire himself. Regardless, let's not lose focus on the fact that he was an active shooter that shot two Deputies. This was a situation that warranted deadly force. Whether that came from gunfire or fire, do not forget it was Dorner that dictated how that entire incident played out. I don't think it is within anyones operational policies to risk more officers getting shot just to try and establish a conversation with this guy to "negotiate". This was far from a simple barricaded subject.

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