The Corona man who claimed an important role as a call-in witness during the chaotic manhunt for Christopher Dorner in 2013, eventually claiming some reward money for his effort, has died of cancer.
Lee McDaniel, 50, died Tuesday following a battle with bladder cancer, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported, roughly one year after he became one of several eyewitnesses to alert law enforcement to the whereabouts of Dorner. The former Los Angeles police officer was on the run for more than a week, during which he killed four people and wounded several others.
FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this post mistakenly identified Regina Crain as Lee McDaniel's widow. She is Officer Michael Crain's widow.
McDaniel spotted Dorner on the morning of Feb. 7, the day McDaniel was scheduled to begin chemotherapy, at an Arco station on Weirick Road in Corona and alerted police. A half-hour later, Dorner was engaged in a gunbattle with police that resulted in the death of Riverside Police Officer Michael Crain.
McDaniel, a longtime Corona National Little League board member, initially agonized over his decision that day, fearing he was responsible for sending Dorner into Crain's path, according to the Press-Enterprise. At the time, Dorner was the subject of an intense manhunt spanning multiple counties and was wanted for two other killings.
But Regina Crain, Crain's widow, hailed her former husband's actions that day.
“He was a true hero who had the courage to report seeing a dangerous serial killer,” Regina Crain told the Press-Enterprise.
Dorner was eventually tracked to a cabin in Big Bear, where he barricaded himself inside and unleashed "a lethal barrage" of gunfire on law enforcement officials who had surrounded the cabin, according to a report analyzing law enforcement's response.
Dorner eventually killed himself with a gunshot to the head.
Authorities were able to finally locate Dorner thanks in part to alerts called in from McDaniel and other witnesses. Among them were Karen and Jim Reynolds, who Dorner held at gunpoint in their Big Bear cabin, tied them up and stole their SUV.
The couple eventually escaped and contacted law enforcement, giving a description of the vehicle.
Before that, Daniel McGowan, who worked at a Big Bear ski resort, had found Dorner's burned-out truck on Feb. 7 and alerted officials, leading to a search focused in the mountain area.
Those three shared in the lion's share of a $1-million reward offered by the city of Los Angeles with help from other jurisdictions. McDaniel, a tow truck driver and fourth person to share in the reward, got 5%.
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