La Palma Police Chief recalls the “Chris Dorner that I knew”

The last few weeks have been tense for La Palma Police Chief Eric Nunez. He and his family endured 24-hour protection after being mentioned in Christopher Dorner’s manifesto.

Though Dorner praised Nunez, the possibility that the fugitive ex-police officer would reach out to him amid the massive manhunt was ominous.

“My wife was obviously very worried,” Nunez said. “I tried to convince her that it is very unlikely that we would have any contact, but we did make a plan.”

In an 11,400-word document published online, Dorner wrote this about Nunez: “You’re just an awesome person and my first exposure to what law enforcement was really about.”

Nunez said he was “reeling,” trying to make sense of Dorner’s alleged rampage that left four dead, including two law enforcement officials and a newly-engaged couple.

Nunez said Dorner was part of the department’s police explorer volunteer program while at Kennedy High School and that he would visit once a year.

“The Chris Dorner that I knew back when he was an explorer here and going through college, then going through the Navy wouldn’t have done the horrendous acts that he did,” Nunez said. “Would not have been the cold-blooded calculated murderer.”

Nunez said he had not heard from Dorner for two years until a package was dropped off at his office on Jan. 23. It contained a note signed by Dorner. In the note, Dorner wrote that he did not lie during the investigation that led to his dismissal from the LAPD. The note was accompanied by a video of one of the interrogations.

“I barely had some inclination that he had been terminated or that he was no longer with LAPD,” Nunez said. “But I had no context of the nature of that investigation was or anything.”

“I really didn’t even know what this was actually about until I read the manifesto,” he added.

Nunez said he first read the manifesto when members of the Irvine Police Department arrived at his office asking him about Dorner. Detectives were investigating the deaths of newly-engaged couple Keith Lawrence and Monica Quan, the daughter of a former LAPD captain targeted in Dorner’s manifesto.

“It’s unfathomable. Even the first call that I got telling me that I was named in this manifesto and they wanted to talk to me about it and they told me who their suspect is, the Irvine Police Department, and my head is reeling because I am thinking how is that even possible?” Nunez said.

He turned over the package and its contents to the investigators.

Days after Nunez received the package, Dorner allegedly went on a shooting spree that killed Riverside police Officer Michael Crain. Nunez went to Crain’s funeral and, like the entire Southland law enforcement community, is now mourning the loss of two brothers.

San Bernandino Sheriff Detective Jeremiah MacKay was killed this week in a final gun battle with Dorner before the 33-year old ex-LAPD officer died in a burning cabin in which he barricaded himself.

Two other members of law enforcement were wounded.

But what sets Nunez apart is his connection to Dorner.

“Whatever relief you might feel was mode with deep sadness that came at the cost of another officer’s life,” he said “Everybody that has been touched by this is trying to figure out what went wrong.”

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