Ex-LAPD officer-turned-fugitive Christopher Dorner, who went on a deadly shooting rampage and then died after a shootout and fire last week, first tried to charm fishermen in San Diego’s Driscoll Wharf into giving him a ride to Mexico, sources said.
Dorner, 33, led authorities on a massive manhunt after allegedly killing an Irvine couple and a Riverside police officer in a crime spree across Southern California that began on Feb. 3.
Dorner's deadly crimes were allegedly part of a revenge-filled plot he outlined in an online manifesto targeting law enforcement officers and their families.
Authorities searched for Dorner all over Southern California -- from Irvine to National City -- and led extensive checkpoints at the San Ysidro border, believing Dorner was trying to flee into Mexico.
Fishermen at Driscoll Wharf told NBC 7 exclusively that Dorner was on the pier near Nimitz and Harbor Island Drive on Feb. 5 trying to charm his way into a boat ride to Mexico.
“He kept saying he wanted to go fishing off Mexico. I said ‘Mexico? That’s kinda weird. You could go fishing on the bay,’” said Jeremy Smith, a local commercial fisherman.
Smith spoke exclusively with NBC 7 on Saturday night.
Smith and others at the dock said Dorner was willing to pay $200 to $400 for someone to take him out to sea. He told the fishermen he was going to be deployed to Afghanistan and just wanted to go fishing in Mexico first.
But at this pier, far away from popular fishing charters, most people were making repairs on their boats, not ready to go to sea.
Smith offered to show him around a luxury yacht that was for sale docked at the pier. But he asked him to remove the military style boots Dorner was wearing to keep the white carpeting clean. Dorner declined.
"Maybe he had a gun," Smith guessed. "Usually people want to see inside."
Dorner's request for a ride surprised some local fishermen, including Roy Sherman.
“I’ve been down here for 40 years and he’s the first guy that came down here and asked for a ride,” said Sherman.
San Diego Police Lt. Andra Brown said she was not aware of this particular Dorner sighting in San Diego.
“We’re not going to discuss details of an ongoing investigation,” Brown said, and referred questions about the incident to the Irvine Police Department.
Several other law enforcement sources -- not in the San Diego Police Department -- confirmed the man described by local fishermen was likely Dorner.
Dorner did spend time in San Diego between Feb. 4 and Feb. 6.
Gift of fish tacos
A surveillance video taken behind an auto parts store in National City on Feb. 4 shows Dorner tossing bullets, a uniform and other items that linked him to the Irvine double-homicide into a dumpster.
After spending an hour at the pier the next day, the fishermen said Dorner left, but returned with fish tacos for Smith, hoping that would convince the fisherman to help him find a charter.
The witnesses reported Dorner was very friendly, always with a smile on his face, calling himself "Mike."
The man who called himself "Mike" told Smith a story about a friend who was having problems with the police and said his friend had been fired.
"I think he was talking about himself, now that I think about it," added Smith.
Dorner eventually left peacefully without his ride to Mexico, the group of fisherman said.
Driscoll Wharf is adjacent to Naval Base San Diego on North Harbor drive.
Smith said Dorner returned to the wharf on Feb. 6 but still couldn't find anyone to take him to Mexican waters.
That same day, a man fitting Dorner’s description tried to steal a boat from a San Diego marina, according to officials. An 81-year-old man on the boat was tied up but uninjured. The would-be boat thief was unable to steal the boat and fled.
Later that night, police issued Dorner's description, and the fishermen said they notified authorities of their encounter.
On Sunday, fishermen on Pier 6 at Driscoll Wharf are amazed the kind man who brought them fish tacos on Feb. 5 was the dangerous fugitive accused of fatally shooting four people, including a police officer and a sheriff’s deputy.
The 10-day manhunt for Dorner ended on Feb. 12.
After barricading himself in a Big Bear-area cabin, he died of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department officials said. That cabin went up in flames during a shootout between Dorner and officers, and the fugitive's charred remains were later found inside.