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