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Hero-worship for a cold-blooded killer: The cult of Christopher Dorner

- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2013

Former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner is believed to have murdered four people, including two cops, the daughter of a retired police captain and her fiancee.

He is suspected in the shootings of three other police officers.

Following a massive, violent manhunt that involved hostage-taking, a high speed car chase and an entire region set on edge, he reportedly was killed Wednesday during a shootout with police at a cabin in Big Bear, Calif.

Nevertheless, Mr. Dorner has a Facebook fan page — dozens of them, actually — and as of Thursday, two of those pages had collected more than 20,000 "likes."

"The spirit of Chris #Dorner will live on forever in our hearts, as an eternal flame," said a statement on the page titled "We Are All Chris Dorner." "Symbolic of the will to stand up in an attempt to eradicate those who would seek to oppress us, by any means necessary, when no one else would."

Sick joke? Guess again. While Mr. Dorner's apparent death inside a burned-out cabin following a four-hour police siege likely came as a relief to many, some have hailed the 33-year-old fugitive ex-cop and former Navy reservist as a quasi-hero, an avenging angel striking out against police corruption and a system gone wrong.

Fliers featuring Mr. Dorner's photo and the caption "HOPE" — a takeoff on President Obama's iconic 2008 campaign image — reportedly were posted by someone on both a commercial sign and a street median in Riverside, Calif.

A statement published on Pastebin and attributed to the hacker group Anonymous did not condone Mr. Dorner's alleged violence, but did refer to the then-fugitive as a Batman-like "Dark Knight," expressed sympathy with "his struggle" and called upon "our brothers to raise arms against the LAPD, for justice and for the lulz."

On Twitter, supporters created hashtags like "#WeStandWithDorner" and "#DornerWasRight," while user "Voltaire Slapadelic" — a self-identified Bay Area rapper and music producer — Tweeted that Mr. Dorner was "being Bruce Willis in all of our favorite action movies. For real though."

In a rambling manifesto posted online, Mr. Dorner accused the LAPD of corruption and racial bias — he was fired from his job in 2008 for filing a false complaint of excessive force against another officer — and vowed to wage "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" against the department's officers as a "last resort."

"The enemy combatants in LA are not the citizens and suspects, it's the police officers," Mr. Dorner wrote. " ... no one grows up and wants to be a cop killer. It was against everything I've ever was. As a young police explorer I found my calling in life. But as a young police officer I found that the violent suspects on the street are not the only people you have to watch ...

"I am here to change and make policy. The culture of LAPD versus the community and honest/good officers needs to and will change. I am here to correct and calibrate your morale compasses to true north."

Two Los Angeles-area African-American activists told the Christian Science Monitor that while Mr. Dorner's actions were abhorrent, his allegations of police corruption resonated within their communities.

Southern California civil rights attorney Connie Rice, who has sued the LAPD for racism on behalf of more than 100 minority officers, told CNN that the department had a "relationship with the black community that could only be described as a state of war. Outside of Mississippi, I've never seen anything like it."

Ms. Rice also strongly frowned upon both Mr. Dorner's actions and his apparent fans, calling the Internet the "Id town where a lot of the ugly things come out."

On the "Christopher Dorner Offical" Facebook page, users posted multiple videos of apparent police brutality and a link to an official White House online petition asking Mr. Obama to grant Mr. Dorner a full pardon.

Tweets supporting Mr. Dorner noted that police mistakenly fired upon innocent civilians during the manhunt, shooting and wounding two people inside a blue pickup truck resembling the fugitive's vehicle.

During a Wednesday panel discussion on the same network, Columbia University professor Marc Lamont Hill said Mr. Dorner was like "a real life superhero to many people.

"Now, don't get me wrong," he said. "What he did was awful, killing innocent people was bad, but when you read his manifesto, when you read the message that he left, he wasn't entirely crazy."

Mr. Hill then compared Mr. Dorner's rampage to director Quentin Tarantino's 2012 film "Django Unchained," a violent revenge fantasy in which a freed slave travels across the antebellum South and the Old West to rescue his wife from a plantation owner.

"[Mr. Dorner] had a plan and a mission here," Mr. Hill said. "And many people aren't rooting for him to kill innocent people. They are rooting for somebody who was wronged to get a kind of revenge against the system. It's almost like watching 'Django Unchained' in real life. It's kind of exciting."

While Mr. Hill's cinematic comparison drew immediate criticism, in one sense it may have been apt: Both American films and pop culture at large have a long history of celebrating violent criminals and portraying them as heroic underdogs, from the real-life Bonnie and Clyde and Jessie James to fictional rap personae and the protagonists in the "Grand Theft Auto" video game series.

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