BIG BEAR LAKE // As police scoured mountain peaks for days, using everything from bloodhounds to high-tech helicopters, the revenge-seeking ex-cop they wanted was hiding among them, holed up in a vacation cabin across the street from their command post.
It was there that Christopher Dorner apparently took refuge last Thursday, four days after beginning a rampage that would claim four lives.
The search ended on Tuesday when a man believed to be Dorner bolted from hiding, stole two cars, barricaded himself in a vacant cabin and mounted a last stand in a shootout in which he killed one sheriff's deputy and wounded another before the building erupted in flames.
He never emerged from the ruins, and hours later a charred body was found inside.
"We have reason to believe that it is him," the San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman, Cynthia Bachman, said.
Dorner, 33, had said that he expected to die in one final confrontation with police.
The apparent end came very close to where his trail went cold six days earlier, when his burning vehicle was abandoned on a fire road near the ski resort town of Big Bear Lake.
With no sign of him and few leads, police offered a US$1 million (Dh3.67m) reward to bring him to justice and end a "reign of terror" that had more than 50 families of targeted Los Angeles police officers under round-the-clock protection after he threatened to bring "warfare" to the LAPD, officers and their kin.
Just a few hours after police announced on Tuesday that they had fielded more than 1,000 tips with no sign of Dorner, word came that a man matching his description had tied up two people in a Big Bear Lake cabin, stole their car and fled.
Game wardens from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife who were part of the search detail spotted the purple Nissan that had been reported stolen going in the opposite direction and gave chase, the department spokesman, Lt Patrick Foy said.
They lost the purple car, but two other Fish and Wildlife patrols turned up that road a short time later, and were searching for the car when a white pickup sped erratically toward the wardens.
"He took a close look at the driver and realised it was the suspect," Lt Foy said.
Dorner, who allegedly stole the pickup at gunpoint after crashing the first car, rolled down a window and opened fire on the wardens.
The stolen pickup then careered off the road and crashed in a snow bank. Dorner ran on foot to the cabin, where he barricaded himself.
Two deputies were shot, one fatally, in the ensuing gunfight.