Game Wardens: The Unsung Heroes in the Christopher Dorner Case

For nearly a week, virtually all national and local news stations were reporting on the manhunt for Christopher Dorner.  Dorner had killed several people and wounded several more in an act of retaliation against the Los Angeles Police Department for what he believed was an unfair dismissal from his job as an LA cop.

Dorner had a wild manifesto that sadly caught the attention of many misguided liberals who saw him more as a hero instead of the cold-blooded murder he really was.  Some warped minded individuals even created a violent video game to honor Dorner.

Dorner’s rampage came to an end on Tuesday, February 12, when he was cornered in a cabin by law enforcement officers from several agencies.  During the confrontation at the cabin, there was an extensive gun battle in which one sheriff’s deputy was killed and another wounded.  Eventually, the cabin was approached with an armored vehicle with the intent to push the cabin walls down.  A fire then erupted in the cabin and officers heard a single gunshot.  Dorner’s body was found in the burned out cabin and the San Bernardino coroner’s office positively identified him through dental records.

In all of the reports I saw on the news and read online, it sounded like the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department was responsible for locating Dorner and ending his murder spree, but that’s not the true story.  The real heroes were members of the California Fish and Wildlife Office.  They were game wardens.

Most people think of game wardens as those men and women who only check your hunting and fishing licenses and make sure you don’t catch more fish than you are allowed or that you have tag on the deer you shot.  But they are so much more than that.  In some states, game wardens and other fish and game personnel that carry a badge and weapon, go through the same academy as the state highway patrol attend.  Upon graduating that academy, they are commissioned as state law enforcement officers just like the highway patrol.  Their jurisdiction covers the entire state in which they serve.  Game wardens, wildlife managers, etc, in California are among those that are commissioned law enforcement officers for the entire state.

On February 12, according to Pat Foy and Mark Michilizzini, Public Information Officers for the California Fish and Game Department, Christopher Dorner was first spotted by two game wardens near Big Bear Lake.  Around 12:45pm, the wardens had to stop on Highway 80 for a school bus going the opposite direction they were headed.  As the bus finished its stop and began to drive away, the wardens spotted a man that looked like Dorner, driving a purple Nissan car.

The wardens turned around and started to pursue Dorner.  Dorner then turned onto another road and tried to outrun the game wardens, but ended up losing control on a curve and crashing into the woods.  Dorner escaped his car and immediately confiscated a truck driven by a ranger from a Boy Scout camp.  As he fled in the truck, Dorner passed another game warden truck with only one warden inside.  This warden radioed Dorner’s position and direction and tried to follow.  As Dorner drove down another road, a third game warden truck with two wardens inside, spotted him coming towards them.  At that point, Dorner fired five rounds at the wardens, hitting their truck.  Two of the shots entered the cab, but neither men were injured.

One of the game wardens was a former Marine and he managed to fire several shots with his rifle as Dorner drove away.  He hit the truck Dorner was driving with several shots causing him to crash the truck.  Dorner then got out and ran towards a cabin.  By this time, members of the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department had joined the game wardens and Dorner was trapped and you know what happened then.

Game wardens in many states are often overlooked for the jobs they do.  In states like California, they are also deputy US Marshalls.  They are often called upon for law enforcement issues that take place in the more remote areas of the state since that is where they spend much of the time and they know the areas better than most others.  They are also called upon to help with drug trafficking cases, human trafficking cases, lost persons and many other cases.  Not only are they found in the good ole outdoors, but sometimes they are called upon to go into inner city areas for one reason or another.

Many game wardens patrol their areas alone.  Backup, if they need it, is often miles away.  In the field, they often are dealing with people that are armed, especially during hunting season.  In fact, some game wardens face more armed people than most policemen do.

So while the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department basks in the limelight of taking Christopher Dorner down, the real heroes who risked their lives were five game wardens.  They truly were the unsung heroes responsible for ending Dorner’s rampage and saving more lives.   My congratulations go out them and all of the other game wardens throughout the country.