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In wake of Dorner shootout, questions over use of ‘the burner’

The day’s light was fading when the SWAT officers decided they could wait no longer for Christopher Dorner to surrender.

Dorner, the fired Los Angeles cop suspected of killing four people in a campaign of revenge, had been holed up in a cabin near Big Bear Lake for hours, trading gunfire with San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies. Repeated calls over a loudspeaker for him to surrender went ignored. Attempts to flush him out with tear gas led nowhere.

Wanting to end the standoff before nightfall, members of the sheriff’s SWAT unit enacted a plan they had devised for a final assault on the cabin, according to law enforcement sources. An officer drove a demolition vehicle up to the building and methodically tore down most of its walls, the sources said.

PHOTOS: Manhunt for ex-LAPD officer

With the cabin’s interior exposed, the officer got on the radio to others awaiting his order. “We’re going to go forward with the plan, with the burner,” the unidentified officer said, according to a recording of police radio transmissions reviewed by The Times.

“The burner” was shorthand for a grenade-like canister containing a more powerful type of tear gas than had been used earlier. Police use the nickname because of the intense heat the device gives off, which often causes a fire.

“Seven burners deployed,” another officer responded several seconds later, according to the transmission which has circulated widely among law enforcement officials. “And we have a fire.”

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