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LAPD manhunt rumor control: Drones, sightings and what's actually true (updated)

Alleged cop killer, ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner, from a security camera at an Orange County hotel, Jan. 28, 2013.
Alleged cop killer, ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner, from a security camera at an Orange County hotel, Jan. 28, 2013.
Irvine Police Department

As the manhunt for fugitive ex-LAPD cop Christopher Dorner enters its second week, rumors have begun circulating surrounding the epic search and the individuals and institutions involved in the story. We take a hard look at the most prevalent ones, see what’s behind them and explain why each is either likely true or not true.

Rumor: The Border Patrol/Customs is using drones to hunt Christopher Dorner

Source: U.K. tabloid the Daily Express

Truth: Not true. U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Ralph DeSio says that, while he’s quoted in the Express piece that claims drones are being used, their drones are not participating in the search. “Reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s unmanned aircraft systems are being used are incorrect. CBP UAS [Unmatted Aerial Systems] are not flying in support of the search.”

Rumor: The LAPD or another agency is using drones to track Christopher Dorner.

Truth: Not true. In a Monday press conference, the LAPD said that they’re not using drones in the search for Dorner and that they don’t know of any other agencies using drones in the search.

(More rumor control: The Express article says that Dorner would be the first target on American soil, but a drone has previously been used in the U.S. to find individuals — North Dakota cow thieves. True story!)

Some agencies flatly denied drone use in this case, but others have refused to confirm or deny whether drones were being used. Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said at a Thursday morning news conference that police were using all tools at their disposal, but did not specify whether that included drones. The Department of Homeland Security is helping local agencies obtain drones, but it appears that they aren’t being used in this case.

Drones, which are unmanned aircraft that can be accurately controlled from a remote location, have been used with weapons by the U.S. government to fight terrorism overseas. The Obama administration’s heavy use of drones has resulted in controversy, particularly after the recent revelation of a memo offering a legal defense for using drones to target U.S. citizens overseas. The drones being used on U.S. soil would likely be unarmed spy drones, used for tracking and surveillance rather than any sort of attack.

Read more the rumors of drone use in the Dorner case and how drones are used by various agences in this piece by KPCC's Erika Aguilar.

Rumor: Christopher Dorner was a highly trained sniper

Truth: Not true. There’s only one sniper course in the Navy, and it’s run by the SEAL community, according to former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb. Dorner also failed to receive a high qualification rating with rifle shooting. He also wouldn’t have received sniper training as a standard LAPD officer, since it’s specialty training.

Rumor: Christopher Dorner was spotted at a Northridge Lowe’s and/or a Walmart on Sunday

Source: LAPD (initial possible sighting)

Truth: Not true. Police said Monday that they’ve received at least 600 tips, but that there have been no credible sightings. The Lowe’s sighting Sunday was a case of “mistaken identity,” LAPD spokesman Det. Gus Villaneuva said, the L.A. Daily News reports. Four other calls Sunday evening — including at an unidentified Walmart — were also considered mistaken identity, the Daily News reports.

Rumor: Christopher Dorner was spotted at a San Bernardino apartment building

Truth: Not true. A Dorner sighting was called in at a San Bernardino apartment building, but it looks to have been a prank by one neighbor on another who they were having a dispute with, according to the San Bernardino Sun. However, police reportedly do not plan to file charges for a false report.

Rumor: Christopher Dorner was spotted in San Diego and headed to Big Bear following police shootings

Truth: True. Dorner’s burned pickup truck was found at Big Bear, and police confirm he was seen before that in San Diego, trying to steal a boat. He told the boat’s owner he wanted to flee to Mexico. He had also previously been seen in San Diego at Navy Base Point Loma. An employee reported seeing someone who resembled Dorner at the base later in the week, but after locking down the base, officials said they had no reason to believe he was on the base.

Rumor: Authorities believe Christopher Dorner is in Mexico

Source: NBC Los Angeles tweet

Truth: Not true. The affidavit was from last Thursday, Feb. 7, and authorities no longer believe this to be the case, at least according to Associated Press reporter Tami Abdollah. A federal agent said that the belief that Dorner fled to Mexico was the best lead at the time of the filing of the affidavit.

Rumor: Hacker group Anonymous took down the LAPD website

Source: Claim by Anonymous on Twitter:

Truth: Not true. “No they didn’t,” LAPD Sgt. Frank Preciado told the L.A. Times. While the website isn’t down, members of Anonymous have shown support for Dorner. The @YourAnonNews account on Twitter, which posted the claim about the site being taken down, also posted several tweets in support of Dorner and ridiculing the search.

Rumor: CNN’s Anderson Cooper received a package from Christopher Dorner

Source: Tweet from Anderson Cooper

Truth: True. Cooper showed the items he received from Dorner on his show. The items were turned over to authorities.

Are there any rumors about Christopher Dorner and the LAPD’s manhunt for him that you’ve heard that you’d like us to check out? Let us know in the comments below.

Photos: Getty Images, the U.S. Army, Joseph Miller/Twitter, hubs/Flickr Creative Commons, Chris Carlson/AP, the Huffington Post

This story has been updated.