Authorities to decide fate of Dorner reward money

This recent image of Christopher Dorner was obtained from surveillance video of an Orange County hotel. The image is the most recent available depicting Dorner's appearance. It was taken on January 28, 2013. (Irvine Police Department/CNN)

This recent image of Christopher Dorner was obtained from surveillance video of an Orange County hotel. The image is the most recent available depicting Dorner's appearance. It was taken on January 28, 2013. (Irvine Police Department/CNN)

BIG BEAR, Calif. (CNN) — It’s the million-dollar reward that’s raising a million-dollar question: Who, if anyone, is entitled to the money offered in the hunt for Christopher Dorner?

The catch is that Dorner, the rogue former Los Angeles police officer who sparked a massive manhunt, was never captured.

He died after a shootout and fire at a California mountain cabin this week after, authorities say, he killed four people and wounded three others.

The city of Los Angeles put up the $1 million reward Sunday, together with other jurisdictions, groups, and private donors. It had been a few days since Dorner was last seen, and they wanted to generate tips.

“Collectively this group, led by my office, is posting a reward of $1 million for information that will lead to Mr. Dorner’s capture,” said Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa.

Now that the hunt for Dorner is over, the Los Angeles Police Department says it’s deciding what to do with the reward money.

“More than 20 jurisdictions and entities are involved in this reward, so all of them will be coming together to collectively determine whether any individual(s) qualify for it,” the LAPD said in a statement Friday. “Our personal hope is that the reward will be distributed, but we must follow the rules and respect the procedures of each entity.”

The police department said they have had a lot of inquiries about the reward. It reminded the public that no money can be distributed until the investigation is complete.

One person who feels he deserves the reward is camp ranger Rick Heltebrake, one of Dorner’s last victims. Heltebrake was driving Tuesday near Big Bear Lake, California, when Dorner approached him, put a gun to his head and stole his truck.

Dorner was on the run from California Fish and Wildlife wardens who had spotted him on the area’s icy roads. Dorner and the wardens exchanged gunfire before Dorner crashed his car, carjacked Heltebrake’s truck and drove it to the nearby cabin.

After Dorner drove off, Heltebrake said he ducked off the road and called his friend, a sheriff’s deputy, to alert him.

Speaking Thursday to CNN about the reward, Heltebrake said, “I do think I deserve it. I believe it was my phone call to that sheriff’s deputy that directed them to the location where Dorner was, and I believe it was my phone call that put an end to the largest manhunt in Los Angeles history.”

Heltebrake said he wants to use the reward money to set up college funds for the children of the two law enforcement officers killed by Dorner. He also mentioned possible improvements to the scout camp where he works, which he said is rundown.

“Did anybody ever believe that he was going to be captured and convicted? I don’t think so,” Heltebrake told CNN’s Randi Kaye. “I think they put that (clause) in there possibly to have an out for later. I believe that that money was put up by the private sector and basically corporate donors, not from taxpayer money or anything like that, and I believe those people wanted that money to go somewhere, and I’d like to do some good with it.”

Heltebrake said he could split the money with Karen and Jim Reynolds, the couple who encountered Dorner in their Big Bear-area condo Tuesday morning, before the carjacking. Though Dorner tied up the couple, they managed to free themselves and call 911.

“If they want half of it, I believe they’re deserving of half of it,” Heltebrake said.

Speaking Wednesday after their ordeal, the Reynolds said they were simply happy to be alive and hadn’t thought much about the reward money.

By Melissa Gray, CNN.

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