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Cabin Engulfed in Flames, Manhunt Continues; Cabin Engulfed In Flames

Aired February 12, 2013 - 20:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it an abandoned cabin or it's actually an occupied cabin?

CINDY BACHMAN, SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: They believe, I think, that it was a rental and that there was no one there.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But how sure can you be? How secure is the area around that house? How well were your -- were your helicopters watching the area while he was in there and this was playing out? How sure are you --

BACHMAN: I can't answer that right now.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- was still in there?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And you can't say who started the blaze?

BACHMAN: No, I don't know. I don't know. I found out just when I arrived that the cabin was on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Just to confirm that.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There have been no further gunfire from the home since that fire broke out?

BACHMAN: That's -- it's my understanding that since the fire began at the cabin, there has been no other gunfire.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And what can you tell the residents of Big Bear and the surrounding area at the moment as the sun is about to set, is this guy still on the loose?

BACHMAN: I can't answer that for you.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But it's a possibility?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want me to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cindy, thank you.

BACHMAN: OK. You're welcome.


The roads are going to stay closed I would say for --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: OK. This press conference is ending with San Bernardino local authorities and the word is basically the most we know right now is what you see. For the last several hours, police have had a coordinated response between local, state and federal authorities. They believe in the cabin that you see engulfed in flames was a suspect named Christopher Dorner.

That has not been confirmed even in the most recent press conference. They believe it because people who had a pickup truck stolen earlier in the day identified the man who was stealing the vehicle as Christopher Dorner. He was pursued into this cabin that is now on fire. There was a result in gun battle between him and two deputy sheriffs from San Bernardino, one of them wound up losing his life. The other we're told is going to be OK.

From that point on, all we know basically is what you see. CNN has been on the story from the beginning. We will continue our coverage. I'm going to hand it now to Anderson Cooper -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Chris, thanks very much. A lot to talk about, obviously, the story is what is happening right now in the woods in Big Bear. There you see the fire that has been raging now probably for at least half an hour or so.

Joining me on the phone is Kyle Martin who's the son of the woman who owns the cabin where this tactical operation is under way.

Kyle, as you see these -- I assume you're watching these images of this cabin up in flames. How big a cabin is this?

KYLE MARTIN, CABIN OWNER: It's pretty big. It's actually more than one cabin. It's actually got five smaller cabins and she -- my mother rents them out.

COOPER: I understand that you were watching TV or your mother was watching TV when she saw her cabin basically surrounded by authorities. What happened?

MARTIN: I wasn't with her. I was actually talking to my sister. She was with my mother. And she texted me and she's like, oh, the cops had actually searched the cabin about two days ago. And then she texted, she's like, oh, that looks like our -- mom says it's out road. And then it ended up being our cabin.

COOPER: Now this cabin, I understand, did not have -- according to your mother, from an earlier report, did not have phone, did not have television, did not have Internet. Is that correct?

MARTIN: Yes, that's correct.

COOPER: Were there any -- (CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: It has in the past, but yes.

COOPER: Does it have electricity?


COOPER: Was there anybody in the cabin? Was it being rented?

MARTIN: No. No, there was no one there. There shouldn't be anyone there.

COOPER: And you said the cabin was searched about two days ago?

MARTIN: I think it was, yes, about two days ago. I guess it wasn't -- they just kind of looked around. It wasn't a real thorough search from what I hear. Obviously, I wasn't there.

COOPER: When you see -- I mean, I assume you've been to this cabin. When you see what's happening right now, what is going through your mind?

MARTIN: Yes, well, I actually just got home. I've been hearing about it on the radio in the car, and then when I got home, we turned on the TV. And actually see it burning, it's kind of like a shock. It's like, whoa, I mean, you know, memories are burning right there.

COOPER: Was there anything in the cabin that could have contributed to a fire, to your knowledge, ammunition, firearms, propane, anything?

MARTIN: I know it was run by propane. So -- but I believe the propane was off. No ammunition or firearms that I know of. It also has a basement, though, so --

COOPER: How big a -- how big a basement?

MARTIN: Probably about 800 square foot.

COOPER: And it's a basement you can actually stand up in? Or is it sort of a crawl space? What? How big is it?

MARTIN: No -- no, yes, there's stairs that lead down to them, and yes, once you're down there, you can -- then, you know, it's high, 10 feet high, eight feet high.

COOPER: Kyle, I appreciate you -- talking to you. I know it's got to be surreal. If you could just stay with us on the phone, I also want to bring in former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes.

Tom, you have been helping us through this operation. As you see this cabin now, what is going through your mind in terms of where this operation may be?

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Well, I have the same question everyone else does, where's the body? Is he still inside there or is he out? Did they actually go in and search it to make sure -- including the basement out to make sure that there's nobody else in there that we don't know about that's innocent?

And if they did find people inside there before the fire what -- you know, was the fire already so great that they couldn't deal with bodies that were inside there? We have another question, what if there was nobody inside there? So I think these are all -- the spokesperson for the Sheriff's Department didn't have or didn't want to be saying all of the details of what's coming from the scene.

They may just not know for sure. So at this point, I think it appears that they're just going to wait for this thing to burn down and get to a point where they feel it's safe to go in and start doing the examination of the crime scene.

COOPER: The fact that they are not fighting the fire does indicate a certain level of uncertainty about the situation or just a concern about the situation?

FUENTES: Yes, I think it does. I think initially you wouldn't necessarily have fire department assets brought too close to the scene just out of fear that if he had a high-powered rifle like a .50 caliber gun, anybody in a fire truck would not be safe. It would not be able to withstand the shots from as large of a bullet as .50 caliber. But here, there's been some time and they may still have a question about safety.

And then as your -- you know, as the person you just talked to mentioned, if there's propane, if there's other material in there that could still explode, they're going to be reluctant to get anybody too close to that.

COOPER: The fact that there's a basement in this cabin, which is new information I hadn't heard previously, I guess that makes it all the more difficult for personnel when they're trying to get -- I mean, if they're putting tear gas in, they want to make sure they're getting the basement as well.

FUENTES: Yes. Yes. They're going to have to get in that basement. But as was mentioned, now that we've learned that that cabin was previously searched in the last couple of days, that would give you a strong indication that he probably was not in a position to preposition weaponry and explosive devices and other things in any large quantity if that cabin was already searched with negative results by the sheriff's department.

So from the sounds of it, it appears that when he fled the vehicle, he didn't have a lot to take with him. So apparently maybe one or two firearms and maybe not a lot of other equipment so that he could run into the woods and he came across this cabin. So we don't know that he knew of the existence of this cabin or maybe not since it's already been searched within the last few days with no weapons found.

COOPER: It would also seem to be more kind of a target of opportunity given the fact that he was intercepted about 27 miles or so from where this vehicle was originally stolen. So if he's basically intercepted, engages in a shoot-out with Fish and Wildlife, which is what authorities say happened, it seems like he basically just kind of got to the first cabin or the closest cabin he could.

This cabin near Highway 38 which is the same road that the shoot- out occurred on, which again is important because the indication being that if there was nobody staying in this cabin, according to Kyle, the -- who, you know, his mom owns this cabin, unless the suspect actually grabbed somebody en route to the cabin, there was nobody there when he burst into the door.

FUENTES: Right. But the fact that the cabin was supposed to be unoccupied doesn't mean that it was either. Just as you mentioned he could have brought somebody with him that he grabbed along the way or there could be other people that were out backpacking or something and got cold and decided to seek shelter in, you know, whatever cabin they could find and all of a sudden when he storms into that cabin there's other people in there that no one had any clue were there.

So you have to consider all these possibilities in an operation like this, that someone could have been in that cabin that didn't really belong there, trespassing, but, you know, mainly because they were seeking shelter or some other reason to be in there.

COOPER: Yes, and again, you know, early reports often turn out to be false. We want to be very careful about what we're -- what we're saying and also not speculating too much.

Tom, stick around with us.

Chris Voss is a former FBI hostage negotiator. He joins us along with former LAPD psychologist Kris Mohandie as we continue to watch these images of this cabin basically in flames.

Kris Mohandie, you and I have talked a lot over the last several days about this suspect, about what we know about him. Did you have any doubt that this is how it would end, in some degree?

KRIS MOHANDIE, FORMER LAPD PSYCHOLOGIST: I had hoped that it would end differently without any further bloodshed or loss of life, but Mr. Dorner made it abundantly clear in his statements that it was a foregone conclusion that he -- that he would take more lives or try to, and that he planned on dying somehow in the end of it.

You know, there's still hope that maybe he'll surrender, you know, or something like that and the door's always open for that, clearly. Enough is enough as the commander said. But it looks like there's a strong possibility that it's -- that it's going to end here and not in a good way for Mr. Dorner.

COOPER: And we still have been getting kind of early reports about the sequence of events over these last several hours. You know about the stolen vehicle. You know according to "The L.A. Times."

MOHANDIE: Right. COOPER: That he held a couple of hostage in another cabin elsewhere for several days, stealing a vehicle, then the interception with the Fish and Wildlife. There was an exchange of gunfire. No deputies were injured in that. Then the retreat to this cabin where a suspect fired, according to law enforcement, fired at deputies, hitting two deputies, one -- one firing upon a deputy from inside the cabin, and then, according to at least one source, "The L.A. Times," trying to exit the cabin, the rear of the cabin, letting off a smoke grenade, shooting another deputy in that, and then fleeing back inside the cabin. One of those deputies has died.

Our Brian Todd is hearing new information about exactly the sequence of events.

Brian, what have you learned?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Anderson, I just spoke with Chief Kirk Ellington of the U.S. Marshal Service. He's a district chief out in California. He just told me that at one point during the standoff, the suspect tried to escape. He said he tried to escape out the back. I'm not sure exactly where the back is in relation to where -- you know, some of the pictures that we were seeing, but he said he tried to escape at the back and was pushed back inside.

Not clear how he was pushed back inside. I asked him when that occurred during the sequence, and he said about the time when the fire started. He also -- I asked him about any weapons that he had, what kind of weapons. They're not sure what kind of weapons that he had in there. It was his understanding at that time when I just spoke to him that there were no hostages in there. But again that's -- that was his understanding at time.

That's -- I don't think that's been confirmed yet by anyone at this point. But he did tell me that at one point the suspect tried to escape out the back and was pushed back inside.

COOPER: Kyle Martin, whose mom owns the cabin and still with I think on the phone.

Kyle, when you hear that the suspect attempted to leave through the rear of the cabin, I'm not sure what image you're looking at right now on television, but -- what we're showing, can you tell me, is that the front of the cabin, the rear of the cabin, what are we seeing?

MARTIN: Right there from what I'm looking -- I'm watching CNN. So it looks like that's the front of the cabin. That looks like directly down as the -- the main road right there.

COOPER: And --

MARTIN: The barn -- there's also a barn right to the left of it that's kind of obscured by the trees.

COOPER: So you're saying there's a number of cabins on this property. This is kind of the main cabin of -- and there one -- they're rented out? Traditionally.

MARTIN: Yes, just rented out, you know, over the wintertime, people go up there and stay. And that's another thing, too, is when they said he was trying to escape through the back. You know, if he directly runs up -- on the TV anyway -- there's other small cabins in there, you know, he can take refuge in.

COOPER: That was going to be my next question. If he had left through the rear, where -- I mean, how big a property is this besides the other cabins on the property? Are there other houses nearby?

MARTIN: On the property there's -- yes, there's six and there's about 10 acres of the property itself. Other nearby cabins of other people are a little ways away. You know, like a mile away or so.

COOPER: Right. Kyle, stand by if you can.

Chris Voss, the former FBI hostage negotiator, is also with us.

Chris, I'm just wondering, as you have watched this play out over the last couple of hours, what has been going through your mind? Or what are your thoughts?

CHRIS VOSS, FORMER FBI HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: That's ultimately the indicator whether or not law enforcement has got an opportunity to talk him out. You can't negotiate a gunfight or a riot. If he takes the time to stop shooting long enough to communicate, then you find out whether or not he loves himself enough to try to survive to carry on his cause.

Just as we're hearing this, the one thing in a strange sort of way I'm encouraged about the report of him trying to escape out the back, it doesn't sound like it includes him using -- trying to use a human shield. So that tends to indicate more that he might have been alone in the cabin, which, of course, would be very good news.

COOPER: The fact, Chris, that authorities went in or at least lobbed in tear gas, whether or not they actually entered the cabin itself, would that also lead you to believe that there were not hostages inside?

VOSS: Well, that in and of itself, they may have done that for a variety of reasons. They may have been trying to protect someone that may or may not have been inside. It would have been dictated by the attack from the inside towards them. And they may have simply been doing that to try to suppress the threat that he -- he presented to law enforcement at the time. So that's a little harder to speculate on other than the fact that he didn't use a human shield.

COOPER: Chris, I'm also wondering just given the tactics that he's accused of using over the last several days, it seems like in a number of the -- the confrontations he's had with law enforcement, whether it was in Riverside where he's alleged to have killed one officer, whether it was LAPD or these San Bernardino sheriffs or even the Fish and Wildlife who he allegedly engaged with a firefight with earlier today, it seems like there is something of an offensive action on his part. I mean, he doesn't seem to be much on the defense. He seems to be taking the fie -- the fight to them.

VOSS: Well, in many cases, yes, that's absolutely true. In the interim, he's been on the run, he's been trying to protect himself. He's been trying to keep himself alive. He's shown a tremendous amount of wariness of what he sees to be as his adversary. He knows that they're tactically very capable. But he has been on the offense most of the time.

COOPER: Former LAPD psychologist Kris Mohandie.

Kris, you and I have talked about this over the last several days and a number of times on this program, you know, we had the idea perhaps he was in a cabin somewhere, had broken into somebody's cabin, whether he was holding hostages or not, but was maybe watching television, was watching the coverage of this.

And you tried to make the point to him that the best way for him to get his message across, to get his grievance paid attention to, would be to give himself up and that would allow him down the road a platform to express himself. Clearly it does not seem he's taken that route.

MOHANDIE: No. But you have to offer it. And you have to always hold out the hope and extend the branch that can lead to a nonviolent resolution. And ultimately at the end of the day, you can do all these things and it's the suspect that makes up his mind about whether he wants to accept that or not. And this was a very rigid man, very invested in his cause, unbending, moralistic in his own way and, unfortunately, it appears that he's chosen to end this in a violent way.

COOPER: James Usera is also joining us on the phone. He actually met Christopher Dorner before Dorner became a police officer. They were classmates in Southern Utah University. I'm just wondering your thoughts upon seeing what appears to be some sort of -- well, I don't know if resolution is the correct word, but, James, your thoughts on this man that you once knew.

JAMES USERA, FORMER CLASSMATE OF DORNER (via phone): Sure. You know, I find myself having gone through a bit of an emotional roller coaster over the last days. You know, this person who, like, your friend and for whom I had a great deal of respect obviously has found himself having a pretty serious problem and taking actions that are -- that are, you know, horrible.

You know, on some level I guess at this point it sounds like things have come to a close. And you say it's not much of a resolution, but hopefully the manhunt will be over and no further violence will be perpetrated.

But it's -- you know, again from my standpoint, there's a bit of a human element to this where, you know, I see pictures of Chris on TV and he's a person who I considered a friend. And to know that -- or, you know, he's alleged to have committed these pretty heinous acts, it's, you know, confusing and I just wish there was something, you know, in hindsight that I could have done to try and prevent it or -- you know, to even help bring the situation as it is to a close in a better way. But until it is, it's just a surreal experience having been sort of dragged into this.

COOPER: Yes. I can't even imagine, frankly. I just want to give all of our viewers just an update of where we are, and there's a lot we don't know at this hour. Most importantly, we do not know where Christopher Dorner is. We do not know if he is inside that cabin still, if he's alive, if he's dead, if he's wounded. We don't know if he's been taken out by law enforcement, actually removed from that cabin, wounded, alive or dead. We simply don't know.

We also don't know if he's somehow tried to escape that cabin and maybe somewhere else on these surrounding grounds. You heard from Kyle whose mom own this cabin, Kyle Martin, who said this is a 10-acre property, there's a number of other cabins on it.

We have been watching this. And I know the image is starting to get somewhat cloudy. I don't know if that's from the smoke from this fire, but over the last at least an hour now we have been watching smoke billowing from this cabin. We' have seen fire as well. At times it seemed to have consumed the -- much of the cabin or at least the front of the cabin that we've been able to see.

But it still seems to be burning. No efforts seem to be made to putting it out. You can read into that what you will. A local CBS reporter Carter Evans was actually describing the situation by cell phone when the initial gunfight broke out. Now this initial gunfight, we believe this gunfight was by the roadblock that the Fish and Wildlife deputies exchanged with this suspect while the suspect was in a vehicle.

There's an early report, according to "The L.A. Times" saying that the suspect actually crashed this white pickup truck that he was driving that he had allegedly stolen, and then opened up fire. Gunfire were exchanged with the deputies from Fish and Wildlife. But this local reporter was on the scene. And you actually hear -- it's confusing what you're going to hear, but you certainly hear gunfire in the background. A lot of people kind of yelling. Let's listen in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a very (INAUDIBLE) situation. We're staying here, we don't want to get caught in the crossfire ourself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you. Come here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You, come here.





COOPER: There you heard the somewhat confusing exchange of gunfire that we believe that was the exchange of gunfire around the roadblock.

Miguel Marquez was close at the scene. He joins me now.

Miguel, assuming that you've not heard any new information in the last 10 minutes or so, let's just take a step back and try to just kind of walk me through the timeline and the sequence of events that we know about that occurred several hours ago up to now.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, what officials here have just announced is that around 12:30, 1:00 today Pacific Time they got a call from individuals who had been tied up. A car was stolen from there. A white pickup truck. They said the person who stole it matched the description of Christopher Dorner.

A short time later, two officials from -- two wardens from Game and Fish, amazingly enough, who were helping San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office, came in contact with Mr. Dorner. There were shots fired. Neither of them were injured. Mr. Dorner then went on foot. He ended up in this -- in this cabin holed up there. When law enforcement deputies from San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office arrived he opened fire on them. One of them was killed. The other one was injured badly. He's in -- he's in surgery right now. But is expected to be OK.

And now this fire about two hours ago now I understood law enforcement said they were going to go in with gas. It is not clear what set off that fire, but they clearly believe that he had no hostages in that -- in that building, in that cabin. He had tried to escape earlier using a smoke grenade, it sounds like, but then was forced back into the cabin. The big question out there that San Bernardino County officials are not able to answer at the moment is, is he still alive?

They said that they had much of the cabin cordoned off around it. They had choppers overhead. But they could not be 100 percent sure that he didn't escape either into the immediate area around that cabin, into another cabin nearby, or somewhere else or if he's still in that cabin.

They're basically, it sounds like, going to wait for that cabin to completely burn to the ground, then go in, see if they can find him, have the area completely surrounded. But we have perhaps 10, 15 minutes of light at the moment. They certainly want to wrap this up before that -- the sun goes down and the advantage then, if he is free and if it is Christopher Dorner, which it certainly sounds like it is, that he would then have the advantage -- Anderson. COOPER: I should point out one firefighter source I've been communicating with who has been watching these images, as you have, just from their experience said that there's no way somebody who was inside that building throughout that fire could survive that fire even if they had a gas mask given the size of the fire that they're witnessing. Again --

MARQUEZ: Impossible.

COOPER: That is -- that's just an opinion, but it does seem very difficult that somebody would still be inside that, whether they were in the basement or whether they were on the ground floor would be able to survive.

Andrew Blankstein is a reporter with "The L.A. Times." He joins me now.

Andrew, your -- your papers had a lot of details about what has occurred over the last several hour. Just fill us in on some of the gaps of what we know. According to your reporting that I initially read, the suspect had attempted to escape through the rear of this cabin, is that correct?

ANDREW BLANKSTEIN, STAFF WRITER, L.A. TIMES: Yes, there was -- there was talk of that. I mean there was radio traffic about an open door and footprints. One other thing that's really difficult to kind of ascertain with this whole thing is -- and there was definitely two gunfights. The one in the cabin obviously is the one that people were focusing on, the -- the sheriff's deputies who were -- who were -- one killed and one wounded. But we don't know -- I mean, because there were rumors that at one point during the afternoon that he had escaped entirely.

But throughout the afternoon, my sources were saying, no, he's in there. Then late in the afternoon, as you saw from the smoke and flames that there was a tactical -- tactical operation that was under way, but obviously until you get close enough to something like that, you're not going to be able to say for sure.

You're going to see a lot of reports of people saying, you know, absolutely, he's dead. Nobody could have survived. But until they go in there and have an official confirmation either through, you know, DNA or some other thing visually, they're probably not going to say -- you know, not going to say officially.

COOPER: Sure. Are you -- have you gotten any information conclusively on what -- on what started this fire? We've had a number of law enforcement folks say, you know, it could be an incendiary device, it could have been the tear gas itself, which ignited a wooden structure, could have been a flash bang grenade or something else.

Do you -- do you have any information on that?

BLANKSTEIN: Yes, we're -- we're hearing, you know, from sources that it was tear gas. We did a story about a decade ago a suspect that shot and killed a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy and then was holed up in a wooden shed. They fired gas into that structure which caught on fire ultimately killing the suspect. And we did a story about kind of the differences between what's called hot gas and cold gas.

And hot tear gas is basically something that ignites. You want to get them presumably out of the structure or it's going to burn. We don't know precisely what type of tear gas was fired. All we know is that it was fired. But something that kind of catches on that fire that quickly and as you noted it's a wooden structure, would probably burn fairly quickly. And as your guests were saying, it's hard to imagine somebody surviving something like that.

COOPER: Yes. It certain is.

I want to bring in our Randi Kaye who has some more information on the Fish -- the Game and Wildlife deputies who actually were the ones on that roadblock and there was that shooting between them.

Randi, what are you hearing?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From what we understand, Anderson, as you know, the sheriff's deputies were hunting for Christopher Dorner around 12:20 or so, Pacific Time, but it was about 20 minute later after that initial call went out that it may have been Christopher Dorner who had stolen that vehicle that the couple who had been tied up reported.

About 12:45 local time here, Fish and Game had been on alert. A roadblock, as you know, had been set up. And one of those Fish and Game officers noticed a car matching that description and a man matching the description of Christopher Dorner heading in the opposite direction that he was going along Highway 38 there. As you know, he was spotted at Highway 38 and Glass Road. So once he noticed him, that's when he put out the alert, called for more deputies.

What happened there, though, was of course Christopher Dorner did not stop. He attempted to flee into the forest. And once he went into the forest hundreds of rounds of gunfire were used to try and stop him. And he ended up holding himself up inside that cabin. But luckily neither of those Fish and Game officers who were in hot pursuit of him was injured. It was two of the other deputies who were called in for assistance -- Anderson.

COOPER: Tom Fuentes from the -- former director -- deputy director for the FBI is joining us as well.

Tom, I know you've been working your sources. At this point what is going through your mind? I mean, the key question is obviously where is Christopher Dorner? Is he still in that structure? Has he been taken out of that structure, alive, dead, wounded? What else or questions do you want answered?

FUENTES: I guess, Anderson, for me the worst-case scenario, the one horrible thing going through my mind which I hope turns out to be ridiculous is that he somehow did escape. That when he fired the shot, set the fire and ran up, that he managed to find a weak point in the line of officers that had him surrounded and ran off into the woods.

Now I don't think that police believe that that's what happened because I think right now you would see hundreds of officers in the woods right now that the manhunt would be back on to try to locate him if they believe that he made it through the line and escaped.

I think the report from the marshals that he tried to escape, but went back inside the cabin, I know the term "pushed back" was used, but I don't believe he meant by hand. Police returned fire on him and that caused him to retreat back into the cabin not necessarily be pushed back in.

But that he went back into the cabin and then of course, the fire accelerated and possibly he was wounded. If the police returned fire as he was going for the cabin, that he may have received a mortal wound as he was entering the cabin and is now still inside there. That we'll know later.

But it sure seems like the police believe he's in there. They don't want to confirm it. They can't. They haven't seen his body and pulled his remains out. They are not going to be able to get near it for some time because of the heat and the flames and the danger that something else inside will explode.

They're going to sit and watch that cabin all night and hope that maybe by tomorrow the embers are cooled and they can make an entry into there and start their forensic work, look for the body.

COOPER: I just want to give all of our viewers just a heads up, obviously, the president will be making his "State of the Union" address tonight. We are going to be bringing that to you obviously at 9:00 Eastern Time when the president's speech is anticipated beginning.

You're looking at a live shot of the White House. The president is about to leave any moment now for Capitol Hill. You just saw his limousine there in the previous shot. You are looking at the exit that he will be using. We will, of course, be following the president as he makes his way to the Capitol Hill.

We're going to continue though coverage of this ongoing law enforcement situation in California up until probably about a quarter to 9:00, then our political coverage is going to take it over. We'll also be giving you updates obviously throughout this evening.

But we want to continue focusing right now on this image that you're seeing of this cabin, the cabin owned by the Martin family. This is not a live shot. This is a cabin owned by the Martin family, which Mrs. Martin was actually watching television, according to her son, Kyle -- there you see the president and first lady.

He replied to a reporter he feels great. How you are? Then he heads to Capitol Hill for his first "State of the Union" in his second term. We have our full political panel obviously assembled to bring you a lot of thoughts on what the president is going to be saying tonight, what kind of a tone he is going to strike. But as we watch them pull out from the White House, that political coverage will begin probably in about 10 or 15 minutes. We anticipate the speech starting around 9:00. We'll have full political coverage after the speech as well with as many updates as we can of this situation in California.

Wolf Blitzer is standing by along with all our political team that we've assembled here in Washington. It was several hours ago when this incident in California really began anew. It had been several days since any word or action had been seen from the suspect, Christopher Dorner.

The belief had been -- and according to "The L.A. Times," to sources there, it seems to have been confirmed that at least for several days he has been holed up in a cabin, not the cabin you see on fire right now, but in a different cabin where he allegedly had taken a couple hostage, was holding them hostage for several days while he basically regrouped and was laying low.

There was a massive manhunt, a manhunt hampered by the bad weather system that had moved into the Big Bear area making it difficult for authorities to track him and to get air assets up into the sky. They had air assets, they had choppers ready with heat- seeking devices, but because of weather they weren't able to get those up in the air.

Now it's believed the suspect was laying low in somebody's house. Whether he moved from one house to another, we simply don't know. But at this point the early information was he had taken one couple hostage. He stole a vehicle and then the series of events that we have seen play out over the next several hours began.

It's been a very fast paced kinetic activity, gunfire at this roadblock and at the cabin you see now. It is getting dark. That had been a concern for law enforcement. Tom Fuentes is joining us as he has been really throughout the last several hours.

Tom, from a law enforcement standpoint, the darkness was a concern all along. It would seem once they realized that there were not hostages inside, as we believe there were not, although that's not been confirmed, because the cabin was said to be empty when Christopher Dorner went in.

It would seem as if the darken was a real concern. Law enforcement wanted to try to move in as quickly as possible before darken fell. Chris Voss is a former hostage negotiator. He joins us. Chris, do you think that's fair that darkness was a concern here?

CHRIS VOSS, FORMER FBI HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: Well, the main concern in terms of darkness is whether or not they've got their inner perimeter established. They're a little more concerned about getting that. It's tougher when it's dark. So that's the real concern.

If they establish their perimeter they're prepared to deal with the darkness. I mean, they're very well trained. They've got counterterrorism training. So they can handle that, but it was making sure their perimeters are established.

COOPER: We also have Kyle Martin. His mom owns this house. Kyle, from the pictures that you're seeing, does it seem to you that the entire cabin is pretty much on fire?

KYLE MARTIN, CABIN OWNER (via telephone): Yes, from what I can see right here, actually looks like maybe the barn is, too. There's a barn ten feet away from it. I can't quite tell, though.

COOPER: But it seems like the entire structure is in flames or has been.

MARTIN: Yes, yes.

COOPER: How big a structure is this, Kyle?

MARTIN: It's about 1,800 square feet, I'd say.

COOPER: It's 1,800 square feet. It's a one-level structure then there's a basement foundation underneath?

MARTIN: Yes, and an attic.

COOPER: An attic able to stand up in or is it a relatively small attic?

MARTIN: It's just a small attic. It's all sad, but this is material stuff. I feel bad for people who have lost loved ones and whatnot.

COOPER: Sure. Tom Fuentes formerly with the FBI is also joining us. Tom, we were talking to Chris about the coming darkness. How big of a concern would that have been for the tactical units on site?

FUENTES: Obviously the concern that he could try to get out of there and run into the woods in the dark, although the police would certainly have night vision equipment. They would have aircraft with infrared ability to try to maintain surveillance coverage from the air.

But it's always better even with night vision. It gives you tunnel vision and gives you a headache. You won't want to sit there for ten hours and look through that equipment. Obviously better in daylight to try to deal with this and see what they have, what they can do about it.

But in this situation, I think they're just going to have to maintain their perimeter, their inner perimeter, which is very tightly placed around that cabin even though it's in flames. Just in case somehow by a miracle he figured out a way to survive it.

But they'll have to maintain that perimeter and wait for the flame to go down and wait for the fire to really be burned out before they can go in to there. It could be a propane tank waiting there to explode or maybe the ammunition that he brought in there with him. They just don't know. They can't do any serious work inside that cabin right now with the flames the way they are.

COOPER: Chris Voss, a former FBI negotiator. How much of an effort would authorities, I mean, when you have a situation where a suspect has allegedly killed a number of people, killed law enforcement personnel both today and previously, a Riverside County deputy as well as the daughter of a former LAPD officer and her fiance.

When you have a suspect who's killed law enforcement and civilians as well, how much of an effort to do you make to open up a dialogue with that person? According to the Martin family, which owns this, there was no internet, no phone service, no television. So how much of an effort to they make to open up a dialogue when you have somebody surrounded?

VOSS: The dialogue can be designed to support the tactical efforts. The vast majority of these situations are actually resolved with a combination of negotiations and tactics. Negotiations can gather information, if the suspect is willing to talk, can give you information as well as information to get him to surrender. The dialogue makes the overall law enforcement effort three-dimensional in terms of protecting life and not subjecting any law enforcement officer to unnecessary risk.

COOPER: I've just been given a word according to authorities they're now clearing the road for fire fighting equipment to be able to get up to this location. Tom Fuentes, what does that tell you?

FUENTES: I think they're pretty confident that the danger is over and it will be safe for them to approach that cabin and try to extinguish the fire and hopefully let them get in and be looking at what's inside before too much longer, try to resolve this and for the peace of mind of the community there to let everybody know that the situation is safe and over and that he's no longer a threat.

I think that would be the biggest concern. Back to Chris Voss' point about the negotiations, you know, the police in this situation would want him to surrender. They know that there are communities out there that may think the police will execute him on sight because he's killed police officers and police family members, and that's not the case.

Also they would want to know all of the things that he's done in the last week. He's been on the loose. Where else has he been. If there was any way to get information from him about what they're going to be trying to investigate now without him, that would have been helpful to the police.

But I think they would have preferred to bring him back, have him stand trial and hopefully maybe obtain some information from him about what he's been up to for about a week.

COOPER: Tom, let me ask you about that. As you know, there are a number of people who have been tweeting, paying attention to this, who, though, certainly not approving of any methods and the murder that this man has allegedly perpetrated repeated times, not just against law enforcement personnel, but against civilians as well. But will say that when a police officer has been killed their belief would be that the police want to exact vengeance on this person. You say that's not the case.

FUENTES: No, that's not the case, absolutely not the case. The police at all times in all the police departments, not just Southern California, but everywhere, need and work hard at obtaining the support of all of the community that they serve. That includes the minority communities.

They do not want to have a situation where it appears that they executed somebody especially when the subject already made claims that what happened to him is based on racism. They don't want to give an opportunity to reinforce that possible reason that that's why he was fired from the police.

That's why his service to the Navy was ended, that's why his life has been ruined is for racist reasons and not because of anything wrong with him. So they don't want to reinforce what he put out, the delusional statements that he made in his manifesto.

They want to say, we want to capture him alive, give him every opportunity to end this peacefully and surrender with no further loss of life, including his own.

COOPER: We should point out we're now showing you taped images. It has gotten too dark to actually see much of anything that's going on. The last report we have minutes ago is they're clearing the roads to allow fire fighting equipment to come up and actually put out that fire, but again darkness has come.

It is very difficult to see exactly what is going on. The fire does still seem to be burning, but these are taped images taken from earlier in the day. Kyle Martin whose mom owns this cabin. Have you, has your mom talked to law enforcement about what happens now, about what was in this cabin?

I guess, we don't have Kyle -- we don't have Kyle. We'll try to get him in a little bit. Tom Fuentes, so basically the fact that fire fighting equipment now seems to be allowed to move into this area, that tells you they seem to be secure about this situation.

So it either tells you that they believe they have some sort of a fix on the location, the whereabouts, the condition that the suspect is in?

FUENTES: That's correct, Anderson. You know, it's a police officer's duty to be there to contain the situation, man the perimeter, and make sure that the threat to the community has ended. That's not part of the mission statement for firefighters. They're not normally going to be put in a situation that puts them in the kind of danger where they might get shot.

You have enough danger dealing with fires and the challenges of that type of occupation, but they're not going to let that fire department truck go anywhere near that location if they're not pretty confident that the danger is over at least from him shooting at them.

Now there's always danger when firefighters approach a burning facility that there's hazardous material inside which could endanger them or could explode or poisonous gases or any of those types of things. Firefighters face that danger every day.

But they don't face or shouldn't face, let's say, every day being shot at and potentially killed that way. So for the police to say, OK, bring that truck up here, bring the fire department personnel in here, that tells them that they're pretty confident that he won't be shooting at the firemen.

COOPER: Miguel Marquez is on the scene. Miguel, if you can give us a lay of the land where you are in relationship to this cabin and the road blocks that we've been seeing, what is going on right now?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're about 10 miles south of the cabin. If you look into the valley, you can see the smoke that's burning. They just opened the road partway up to some of the neighborhoods below that cabin. So it's clear that things are starting to loosen up here, the fact that the fire department is going in.

It is very clear that authorities talking to us earlier believe that whoever was in that cabin didn't get out, but they can't be 100 percent sure. They're not 100 percent sure it's Christopher Dorner, although everything they have leads them to believe it is.

This entire area, this massive area east of Los Angeles has been on lockdown and quite concerned for some days now over Mr. Dorner. Schools have been disrupted. Life has been disrupted. But finally it seems that this may be coming to a slow and painful end just like the story it was, as it unfolded last week -- Anderson.

COOPER: Miguel, just so we're absolutely accurate -- and again we may not know this information. Are you hearing they believe that suspect is still in that structure? You haven't heard anything that would indicate that they've removed him from that structure either alive, dead or wounded?

MARQUEZ: No. From what I understand, whoever was in there was still in there. There was some possibility according to officials here that we spoke to that he could have gotten out. They couldn't say 100 percent certainty he was still that structure. But officials both here up on the mountain and around the country, it seems that whoever was in that structure had tried to escape at one point, was forced back in, wasn't able to get out --

COOPER: Excuse me, Miguel. Let's listen to the mayor of Los Angeles.

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, LOS ANGELES: First of all, I want to say on behalf of the people of Los Angeles, our hearts and prayers are with the San Bernardino deputy who was shot and killed today. Our prayers are with their family, with the people of San Bernardino, where the sheriff's department of that county.

I want to thank them for their bravery. I want to thank all of the law enforcement professionals who have day and night tried to bring Christopher Dorner to justice. Obviously, I'm not going to comment on what most of you have seen, as I have, because I'm not in a position to do that.

That's for the representatives of the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department. I also want to say something about the men and women and their families who were targeted. I've called a number of them over the last few days to tell them that our hearts and prayers are with them.

None of us can imagine what they've had to go through, what their children have had to go through because of the threats of Christopher Dorner, and I just want to thank the member of the Los Angeles Police Department who put their live on the line every single day. Thank you very much. Just, we're live. Just I'll say now in Spanish --

COOPER: Been listening to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa just expressing his condolences to the family of the San Bernardino deputy who lost his life. Another deputy is in surgery and expected to be OK. There's a lot going on tonight, obviously, a very -- still -- fast moving situation.

But you heard from Miguel Marquez perhaps the headline of the last few minutes whoever the suspect was in there, and all indications were it was Christopher Dorner. That has not been independently confirmed and officials aren't saying.

But whoever was in that structure is believed still in that structure, was not taken out of that structure alive, dead or wounded. And it is hard to believe that anybody could survive that fire inside that structure.

Firefighting equipment is en route to try to put out the flames, which again is another indication that authorities are relatively confident that the situation is secure enough.

We'll be back at midnight Eastern with a special edition of 360. Our live coverage of this breaking news continues on our sister station right now, HLN. CNN's "State of the Union" coverage starts right now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.