Boy Scout Ranger Faces Dorner and Lives

Accused murderer Christopher Dorner aimed a rifle and ordered scout 'Ranger Rick' out of his truck, adding, 'Take your dog.'

Possibly the last person to speak with killing spree suspect Christopher Dorner was 'Ranger Rick' Heltebrake, a year-round manager at Boy Scout Camp Tahquitz.

It was on the road of the camp owned by Long Beach Area Boy Scouts that Heltebrake and his Dalmatian Suni came upon the most wanted man in America.

And he let them walk away.

Authorities say Dorner was possibly armed with firepower that penetrates cars and body armor and can hit targets 20 football fields away. Moments after he trained a rifle at Heltebrake, police say Dorner, 33, engaged in a shoot-out that left a San Bernardino sheriff's deputy dead, another wounded and a burned down cabin, where he is thought to have perished.

Had Heltebrake worn his special event olive green uniform, "the outcome definitely could have been different," he said. That was about as reflective as Heltebrake, 61, got in describing his escape from the accused killer.

"People keep asking me how am I dealing with it? It's over and he's dead and I have to go plow snow tomorrow," said the man known as 'Ranger Rick' to thousands of Southern California Boy Scouts. "What I have to deal with, is what to do about my truck."

He might find some help with that. Heltebrake's quick cell phone call Tuesday to a San Bernardino sheriff's deputy telling him that Dorner was in the ranger's white truck and heading toward the deputy may earn him the $1 million reward for Dorner's capture.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and the L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Thursday afternoon that 20 potential reward candidates will be reviewed.

But it was Heltebrake's warning call that effectively led to the end of the nationally-watched manhunt for Dorner, a fired Los Angeles Police Department officer who had vowed revenge on about 50 people he blamed for his ruin.

Dorner Confrontation

On Tuesday, Heltebrake was returning from lunch at Oaks Restaurant in Angelus Oaks and making his rounds, driving the roads of Camp Tahquitz, a square mile of property where he works full-time for the Long Beach Area Boy Scouts. More than 2,000 Southern California boy scouts yearly visit the camp in Angelus Oaks. Nearly 200 of them were expected over this coming three-day weekend. 


Heltebrake was making his way on the winding roads looking for rogue campfires or an abandoned car on the property, which sometimes attracts snowboarders and dog walkers. It was around noon on Glass Road heading away from the main Highway 38, when up ahead Heltebrake saw sheriff's vehicles. They had two deputies per unit, and Heltebrake knew: something's going on.

He reached the end of curvy Glass Road on the western flank of Tahquitz and turned around to head back. Half a mile before reaching the highway, he rounded a right-hand bend.

Suni, the Dalmatian known to rangers and deputies and locals as Ranger Rick's constant companion, was in her passenger seat perch. There was movement up on his left, someone taking cover behind a big tree. Heltebrake realizes a gunman was striding toward him.

"I see this person, I'm not going very fast, he comes out of the snow and I see a crashed vehicle behind him, as if he went up a snow bank," recalled Heltebrake. "And I could see Christopher Dorner, gun pointed right at me. I stopped, put the truck in park and raised up my hands.

"He said 'I don't want to hurt you, start walking up the road. And take your dog,'" Heltebrake continued. "She was sitting in the passenger seat. I asked him if I could grab her leash, which would have been in the back seat, and he said, 'No, just start walking and Suni and me started walking up the road. So I'm walking up the road, Suni's with me, I'm pulling her by her collar."

About 10 seconds later came "a loud volley of gunfire, 15 to 20 shots, and I looked back."

Only now, Heltebrake said, he was around a bend. When he looked over his shoulder, he was out of sight. He and his dog started running off the road into the snow, "and took cover behind a big tree. And I called the local deputy, who I'd seen earlier on the road. I called him directly on his cell phone, and he said, 'What you got?'

"I said 'he just took my truck ... and he's heading your way.' He asked for a description of my truck, said OK, and we hung up," Heltebrake continued, "And I just kept running towards the highway in the snow, Suni following me."

As Heltebrake and Suni made their way toward the main highway, San Bernardino sheriff's deputies were soon exchanging gunfire. Dorner crashed Heltebrake's truck and ran to a cabin, where he fired on law enforcement officers. Covered live by a nearby TV crew nearby, the extended stand-off gripped the mountain area.

Glimpse of Humanity Shown by Dorner

Heltebrake and Suni reached the main road a half mile from the Dorner encounter, and a friend comes to pick them up to take them to a California Highway Patrol road closure.

"I just wanted to sit and relax where I felt safe," Heltebrake said. "The thing is, Dorner approached me, he was very calm, I stayed very calm. He said, 'I don't want to hurt you,' and I believe he didn't want to hurt me. It was clear I was not a target of his. Unfortunately, he found [uniformed officers]." 

Heltebrake stressed that he was not at all condoning Dorner or his killing of innocent people, only relaying the events.

"His demeanor was calm, professional, almost business-like; this whole thing was like a business transaction .... I felt a little bit of compassion from him, he said 'take your dog.' He had some kind of compassion inside and that was where the dog came in."

Dorner is accused of killing two law enforcement officers who were not related to his LAPD firing. He wounded others. It does not appear Dorner spoke to anyone else in the minutes between Heltebrake's encounter and his last stand.

"He was probably the last person to have spoken to Mr. Dorner," said Long Beach Area Boy Scouts CEO John Fullerton. "His dog, Suni, also was part of the [Dorner] encounter."

Fullerton said the three-day weekend event at the camp has been cancelled with the massive press corps and command post located at its lodge.

Now, Heltebrake has the task of repairing his truck, resuming Camp Tahquitz operations for next weekend, and seeking the $1 million reward. 

If that happens, he said, he would still work for the Boy Scouts Camp Tahquitz. What might he spend the reward on, perhaps a diamond collar for his beloved pooch Suni?

"Dalmations only wear red collars," he texted. "I might buy some trucks."

Other stories about the Christopher Dorner manhunt and outcome:

  • Camp Tahquitz Ranger's Confrontation With Dorner
  • Dorner's Mom: Condolences to Those Harmed By Son
  • Officials: Manhunt Called Off; Cabin Fire Not Deliberate
  • Human Remains Found in Cabin; No Dorner ID
  • Woman Thought to be Dorner's Mother Seen Watching News Coverage at La Palma Restaurant
  • Social Media Following Dorner Manhunt
  • LAPD: Dorner May Have Visited Manhattan Beach Hotel
  • TMZ: Dorner Visited Sport Chalet Before Killings
  • Did Dorner Have an Accomplice?
  • Ex-Deputy Chief: Dorner May Target Command Posts
  • LAPD Issues All-Clear in Reported Northridge Dorner Sighting [Video]
  • Manifesto by Manhunt Target Christopher Dorner
  • Long Beach Woman Reportedly Was Married to Dorner
  • UPDATE: $1M Reward Offered for Dorner's Arrest
  • Police: Shootings Case of Mistaken Identity
  • Dorner's Suspected Trek Through California

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JustUs February 15, 2013 at 08:12 PM
"I see no way anyone can excuse or justify in any shape or fashion Mr. Dorner's actions." Paul in SB, why are you people so willfully blinded? No one is saying that Dorner was justified in what he did. We are just saying that LAPD fired him for snitching off another cop, and Dorner's claims of being unjustly and unfairly screwed by the system are probably spot on - which is the reason he lost it. Dorner had a clean background. Top secret security clearance. People with clean backgrounds and who passed all the LAPD tests, backgrounds, psych evals, etc.... don't act out like this unless they were egregiously and wrongfully harmed in some way. So why don't you grow up and examine both sides of the equation instead of only cheerleading the home team for once? "We have all been wronged in one fashion or another, but to justify or explain his actions by implying "his fuse was lit" by LAPD or any other outside influence is unacceptable." Seriously, you must either have the reading comprehension of a 2nd grader or you must enjoy being willfully disingenuous. No one justified Dorner or what he did. We are simply saying he most probably got screwed by LAPD which took his job and livelihood away from him for the mortal sin in police work of snitching off a said dirty cop. Therefore, LAPD likely has the blood of all those murders on their hands too in an indirect way. Smoke some of that.
shelly February 15, 2013 at 10:14 PM
Ranger Rick walked away.... and quickly made contact of his description of Donnor on the mountain. He gets the 1 Million.... $$$. A true Boy Scout... no gay man there!
No Comment Trolls February 17, 2013 at 12:11 AM
Paul in SB; Feel free to ignore posters like JustUs - most productive readers do. They repeat principally the same comment ad nauseam and mistakenly believes her/his opinions are facts, which are then supported by spurious logic and personal insults. Commenters like these are largely patsies of our new e-media who only try to fan the flames of controversy in order to drive up their page visits and in turn charge greater ad fees.
Paul in SB February 17, 2013 at 05:20 AM
Well JustUs, I am disappointed you have to resort to name calling and childish reactions to my comment. I find it interesting that you and your cohorts in conspiracy cannot even imagine a scenario where Dorner was actually guilty of what he was accused of while employed with LAPD. Why would you automatically assume he was wronged by LAPD?...because of a rambling Manifesto or his violent actions to "cure" his perceived wrongs? I would be the first to expect remedial action if there was one iota of proof that this was a set-up. Do you or anyone else commenting on this have a shred of proof that Dorner was wrongly terminated from his job? I guess if a situation involves the police or police activity, the assumption is that the police will take actions in to their own hands and then cover it up. With that as a starting point, it makes any rational discussion quite difficult. By the way, I have a college degree, so I would hope that my reading comprehension is better than a 2nd grade level.
Paul in SB February 17, 2013 at 03:28 PM
No Comment Trolls, thanks for bringing clarity...you are absolutely correct. I just need to let these provocative and baseless comments go, so I will not respond any further...it is pointless to attempt a dialogue with posters unwilling to look at both sides of an issue.


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