Criminal Justice News

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Dorner: Calculating Murderer or Fantasy Driven Killer

As the manhunt for accused killer Christopher Jordan Dorner unfolds, people have been perplexed by some of his actions.   Everyone is outraged and sickened by the assassinations of the young couple in Irvine and the Riverside police officer. His actions, however, in attempting to either flee or further his vengeful plans seem disjointed.  Why attempt to steal boat?  Burn the truck?  Shoot the Riverside officers?  Are these actions part of a calculated plan, or perhaps, evidence of fantasy script deviations.

A 1986 article in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence on the development of a motivational model for sexual homicide remarked, “The role of fantasy in the motive and behavior of suspects is an important factor in violent crimes.”  Dorner’s so called “manifesto” gives a glimpse into a world wherein he is cast as the hero; the lone person who knows right from wrong.  It is his personal fantasy that he overlays onto the real world around him.  Everything must fit this script.  When the real world pushes him off script, his actions likely fall back on some lesser script.

Dorner likely gets these small pieces of fantasy from his experiences and training and also from art – like books and movies.  Did he really need a boat to escape to Mexico?  Millions of people have found their way into the States by walking.  Was the boat scene taken from a movie?  Was it sexier to steal a boat than walk or drive across the border into Mexico?  When the boat becomes disabled (reportedly because a 13 year Naval officer improperly cast off the lines) there is no back up script for fixing the problem.   His back up script was to flee.  Indeed, it appears that his fantasy personal movie is so strong that his thinking is inflexible, causing him to flee rather than problem solve.

The first shooting involving the LAPD officers may be more evidence of his continuing a flight from justice script rather than targeted murder.  Stealing the boat indicated that he was fleeing.  All of his actions post-homicide seem to be flight - hiding out and discarding stuff in trash bins behind closed businesses.  In Southern California, if you are going from San Diego to Big Bear, you take the 15 freeway.  And, at that hour of the night, a stop an AM/PM mini-mart for gasoline or food makes sense.  Apparently, LAPD also had officers from a protection detail in that area.  Was Dorner on his way to commit another murder, or simply spotted?   Is the shooting in Corona because he had murdered, fled and decided to murder again?  Or, was this shooting an extension of his flight from justice? 

It seems more likely he has an end in mind and his flight from justice is the second act.  His shooting with the first group of LAPD officers was an extension of flight.  Shortly thereafter, he sees the Riverside Police Officers.  He is still riding the rush from the encounter will LAPD, he likely believes he is close to be cornered and very likely sees the Riverside officers as a threat to his freedom more than a target of opportunity and general rage against police officers.  This is no way excuses or apologizes for his cowardly murder of one police officer and the serious wounding of a second.  It may only help us understand where he is going and how we can catch him.  His script for this ACT of the fantasy is flight.

 In the flight scenario, he continues on his way to Big Bear.  It is important to note that fugitives rarely go to places they have not gone before.  They must have a mind-map of the location.  We find out that his mother owns property somewhere on the mountain.  It is a good assumption that Dorner has been on the mountain before and had specific place in mind. As he drives on to the rugged dirt road he breaks an axel. 

If he were not driven by his own fantasy script, he would have many choices.  He could break into a house and hunker down.  He could steal a car and get off the mountain.  However, he is driven by his own fantasy script and must continue.  It would seem that burning his truck is counterproductive.  Some people think he did it as a “red herring;” to distract the manhunt.  Alternatively, he might have been trying to lure law enforcement into his trap and increase his kill count.  The most likely reason, given the flight script, is that in his mind he is behind “enemy lines.”  He burned his truck much like the Marines in the HBO docudrama Generation Kill.  He did so to deny his enemy material aid and intelligence.  It is a subscript he defaulted to; not clear thinking or problem solving.

Dorner, now without transportation has continued on his flight script.  At this point, however, the icy cold of the mountain will likely force him to attempt to walk off.  Yes, there are many roads and trails off the mountain.  That fire service road could be followed down to the Santa Ana River and back into civilization. 

With the winter storm and its high winds, deep snow drifts and wind cooled sub-zero temperatures, the mountain has become more deadly than law enforcement.  His script probably didn’t include him dying alone in the icy grips of the mountain cold.  That seems the tragedies likely final act.

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