Judge dismisses claims in Dorner reward case
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A judge today dismissed all claims against Riverside County filed within a lawsuit brought by a camp ranger who was carjacked by rogue Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner and is seeking all of the $1 million in multi-agency reward money offered.
Richard Heltebrake maintains in a lawsuit filed April 29 that he deserves the money because his 911 call helped alert authorities as to Dorner’s whereabouts.
However, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White said the claims against Riverside County infringed on “protected activities,” including the entity’s right to take the recommendations of a three-judge “quasi-judicial” panel in deciding who would get a $100,000 contribution to the overall reward fund.
White also said she was not convinced by Heltebrake’s attorney, Allen Thomas, that a contract existed between the reward-seeker and Riverside County. She noted that the Board of Supervisors offered its reward Feb. 13, a day after Dorner died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound during a stand-off with police at a cabin in the the unincorporated San Bernardino Mountains community of Angelus Oaks.
Attorney Kurt Hallam, on behalf of Riverside County, said he was pleased with the ruling. He said the reward money was intended for those who deserved it and that it was “unfortunate” that a lawsuit was filed by “one disgruntled claimant.”
The three retired judges appointed to make to make a final determination of who deserved the reward money announced in May that four people other than Heltebrake would receive a share for helping law enforcement officers track down Dorner.
The judges found that 80 percent of the money should go to a couple who were bound and gagged by Dorner in their Big Bear cabin. The panel recommended that a ski resort employee be awarded 15 percent and a tow truck driver 5 percent.
The Riverside County Board of Supervisors adopted the panel’s findings on June 15.
The ruling leaves the cities of Los Angeles, Riverside and Irvine as the remaining defendants. In previous hearings, White said she had doubts about the claims against those entities as well and found they would have to be shored up in an amended complaint.
Heltebrake’s attorney, Allen Thomas, told White he will talk with his client about the future of the case in light of today’s ruling.
An offer of $100,000 for Dorner’s capture also was made by the city of Riverside, where Officer Michael Crain was killed and a second lawman was injured. The city later withdrew its offer, saying the criteria for the reward was not met because Dorner was already dead when police stormed a cabin near Big Bear Mountain Lake where he was holed up.
Dorner, who lived with his mother in La Palma, promised warfare on LAPD officers and their families for what he believed was his unjustified firing. The 33-year-old Navy reserve officer killed four people, including two law enforcement officers, during his nearly one-week run from authorities.