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  • Mark Rein

Legend in His Own Mind: Rampage Killer in California

Welcome to Crime Raven; true crimes, real-life stories from law enforcement and issues crime fighters face. This blog highlights crimes researched by retired Detective Sergeant Mark Rein, using publicly available information, court records and personal recollections. Content may be graphic, disturbing, or violent. Reader discretion is advised. Suspects are considered innocent until found guilty in a court of law.

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The warrior parked his truck just off the curb at the west end of the condo complex. He was familiar with the layout, having scouted it twice in the last two days. One was confirmation that the target still lived there. The second surveillance.

It did not surprise him to find out that well; it was a nice place. The towers housed condos and businesses that surrounded courtyards, exercise areas, restaurants, and cafes. The meticulous pocket community is squarely located in the middle of Irvine, the largest planned city in the United States. To the warrior, the effect was simultaneously attractive and repulsive. He wasn't the kind of person who could live there with the beautiful people, but part of him lamented that fact.

Walking away from his truck, the warrior instinctively checked his gear, right forearm brushing against the butt of a pistol concealed under his baggy coat. Badge on the chain, hanging heavy inside his shirt against his chest, left coat pocket weighted with spare magazines.

This operation called for stealth, and the risk of a fight was low. No vest, no bulky radio, no helmet and no boots. This would be in and out. Gone in the dark.

The warrior walked confidently down the sidewalk in front of one tower. Up ahead, the cafe attached to the parking garage seemed almost empty. It was late afternoon on Sunday, super Bowl Sunday. He figured that most of the people lived in these buildings were busy socializing, watching the game or otherwise distracted.

The Warrior knew that the target was away. Pre-Operation Intelligence and surveillance were very useful things. He walked confidently past the cafe and into the side stairwell of the parking garage.

Based on his observations, the security officers were for show only. They lazily repeatedly orbit the buildings and the golf cart. You could set your watch by their rounds. Knowing this, he felt at ease immediately upon leaving the sidewalk.

The warrior kept a casual pace as he climbed to the second floor and walked out onto the open upper deck of the garage. Satisfied that the lot was mostly empty, and the target car hadn't returned. He settled himself in an alcove that allowed him to observe the ground floor entrance and the second level parking deck.

As the sunset against the residential towers, he watched the windows and the balconies above. The lights were coming on up there, but no one was visible or out enjoying the brisk evening air. If somebody called him in, he had the badge and tell them just enough to dissuade them from blowing his operation.

A little after 7:00 PM, the Warrior's patience was rewarded. The white Kia Optima flashed by on the street below, turning into the garage. He listened as the car moved across the first floor, strained up the ramp before emerging into the open air on the second level. It did not surprise him to see two occupants. In the dim light, he couldn't tell for sure, but it looked like the target was in the passenger seat. It was go time.

The warrior was nonchalant in his approach. A normal guy out for an evening walk. It didn't matter. No one was paying attention. The car's dome light was on. They were talking, laughing inside. The black guy was behind the wheel. The Asian woman beside him was pretty, her blue dress attractive, even in the muted interior lights.

The scene of happiness and normalcy gave the warrior a pang of envious desire. He pushed back on the jealousy and replaced it with disdain. He fought to suppress a grin and head shake. Typical, he had caught the campus cop slippin'.

The warrior drew his pistol and, moving up close to the passenger window, pulled the trigger again and again, almost emptying the magazine. Bright flashes, loud pops, and vaporizing glass. The assault was so sudden and devastating, neither man nor woman cried out. They just slumped forward. Their instinctual response to the sudden onslaught was only to turn slightly. When the shooting stopped, a hush of silence rushed in, enveloping the scene. The warrior lean closer, trying to see past the gun smoke that hung in the air like a fog.

As he looked through the jagged holes, bullets made in the passenger window, there was a shocked stillness inside. Bodies languidly shifted. Maybe a quiet moaning, a chuffing gasp. But he had to be certain. Again, he lifted his pistol. This time with precision aim. He placed a bullet in the back of each head just to be sure the message was clear.

The specially fitted pistol made more sound than he had hoped. Echoing through the courtyard, he scanned the buildings above. Saw no movement, no onlookers in the windows. There were no sirens.

The warrior walked away with purpose, retracing his steps using intermittent shadows to his advantage. He needn't have worried. He made it back to the Titan without hearing sounds of alarm. Still no approaching sirens. He disappeared into the California night.


Irvine, California, is in the Los Angeles basin just south of the City of Los Angeles. Irvine has a less urban field than its larger neighbor. It's the largest planned community in the country and boasts verdant parks, desirable neighborhoods with excellent schools and low crime.

On the evening of February 3rd, 2013, the discovery of two of its residents shot to death in a car disturbed the reputation of Irvine being a great, safe place to live. The victims were young professionals who died outside their apartment, an exclusive condominium complex in the heart of the city.

The murder scene was on the second floor of one of the complexes, parking garages. A resident returning home at around 9:00 PM parked near the bodies. That level of the parking garage was open and in full view of the much taller residential and office buildings that lined one side of the multi-building complex.

The 9 1 1 caller, another resident noticed a white Kia Optima parked nearby with the damaged window. Fearing theft, the person walked over and discovered the bodies of a man and a woman slumped over in the front seats, obviously dead.

No one from the surrounding buildings reported the shooting when it occurred, but the occupants with units facing the interior of the complex were witnesses to the aftermath. First patrol units arrived, lights and sirens announcing the event. They secured the scene and blocked the interior roads. Next came the crime scene technicians with their processing equipment in tow. Shortly behind them, the homicide detectives. To the residents of this normally tranquil neighborhood, it looked like an invasion.

The nervous neighbors asked each other, did you see anything? Did you hear anything? No one had. Most said they were here, and they were watching the Super Bowl. Some were out avoiding watching the Super Bowl. The idea that anyone could be murdered right in their midst in Irvine was unsettling.

To the detectives that caught the case, the facts were unusual. This wasn't the kind of place they normally saw people dead in a car. That was often in parks, at stoplights, on streets and in the seedier areas on the periphery of the city. This scene was far from typical, and that raised troubling questions.

How was it that someone could fire more than a dozen nine millimeter rounds in a place as exposed as this, and no one see? The obvious answers were disturbing. Silencer? Was this a hitman?

The Optima's windows were a cloudy mess. Spidered out, penetrated at many points, jagged holes, allowing a glimpse of the grizzly scene inside. A young black man slumped behind the wheel. A young Asian woman beside him. Both shot too many times to count, but what was apparent is that they were each finished with a coup de grâce in the back of the head. All the shots had been at close range, the shattered glass edges peppered with telltale black residue.

What was the crime about? Looking at the woman, her clothing was nice. Her dress, before it became a horror mapping, the flow of blood from her wounds to the pull of gravity had been a pretty powder blue. She had jewelry on, which included a large diamond ring. The man's watch wasn't stolen and there was other property in the car. Probably not a robbery.

It looked like an ambush. It was a properly parked car, and it didn't seem like either of the victims had moved after the shooting started. They quickly identified the victims.

The detectives were stunned to find that they were working on the murder of a fellow officer. The man was 26-year-old Keith Lawrence, an officer with the University of Southern California. It turned out that the second victim was 28-year-old Monica Quan who coached the women's basketball team for California State University Fullerton. Monica and Keith shared an apartment in the complex and had just been engaged to marry a few days prior to their murders.

The detectives spread out to gather information about the setting and the victims. None of the building's residents admitted to knowing anything about the shooting. No one knew of any problem between the residents or why the couple might be targeted? A check of the parking garage access log revealed that Keith had driven into the garage at 7:30 PM. The 911 call came in at 9:10.

Detectives scoured Keith and Monica's lives for clues about why they were targeted. They came up with nothing for Keith. He was well respected at the university and hadn't had any major problems, personal or professional. The same was true for Monica. She was the daughter of a retired Los Angeles Police Department Captain. Monica's father, Randall Quan, could think of nobody who wanted to hurt them.

The only anomaly for Monica was that a man had called into Monica's office at the university with unusual questions. He asked where Monica and her team would stay for a recent away game. The staff member who took the call said the question seemed stalkerish. The caller hung up when asked to identify himself.

With no strong leads, the detectives expanded their search to include random crimes in the area. There had been no suspicious reports of weapons brandishing or road rage leading up to the incident.

They also looked at the victim's families. Randall Quan, Monica's dad, had been involved in gang enforcement and after retirement had become a lawyer representing police officers. None of the gang cases seemed to be related, and nothing jumped out at them about Randall's legal clients, at least not from the recent past.

In the first 48 hours following the Irvine's double homicides, detectives had many questions, but few answers.

The morning after the Irvine murders, 100 miles south in National City and just north of the Mexican border, the janitor of an automotive repair shop looked into the dumpster in the alley and saw many items that looked like military gear. The worker reported the find to local police.

The responding officer expected to see old, worn out, worthless stuff, but was surprised to see new items that included ammunition, a ballistic vest, leather duty belts, holsters, a collapsible baton, an officer's notebook, and a blue LAPD uniform. The uniform had a name tag attached. The name was Dorner. Inscribed in the notebook were two handwritten names and badge numbers. Dorner 37381 and Evans 31050.

A broader search of the dumpster down the alley revealed other valuable equipment, including a tactical helmet, a military backpack, and a nine-millimeter pistol magazine with bullets.

After he recovered the equipment from the dumpster, the officer guessed that someone had stolen the property from one of his colleagues working in the big city to the north. He called LAPD and was told that Dorner was no longer a police officer, but that he could speak to the patrol sergeant, Teresa Evans.

Evans told the officer that she didn't know why the equipment would be in a dumpster in National City. Dorner was assigned to her as a trainee, but was fired from LAPD several years prior. The officer thanked Evans for the information, hung up, and logged the items into the police department's property room.

At the time of the phone call from National City PD, Theresa Evans was 48 and working patrol on swing shift. Mention of the name Dorner was alarming to her. They had history, and it wasn't good.

Christopher Dorner had been Theresa Evans' trainee six years prior. They worked the west side of LA near the water. Dorner hadn't been a model recruit. In the academy, he was a marginal student, and at one point he shot himself in the hand. On the street, Theresa had serious reservations about Dorner's ability to do the job. He didn't possess an aptitude for the subtle and diplomatic communication skills that good cops develop.

He was overconfident, to the point of being unsafe. Worse, he couldn't handle constructive criticism, an essential attribute closely associated with humility that are the keys to success as a police officer. As the training period progressed, Theresa noticed and documented that Dorner was temperamental and angry, to the point of being unstable.

He kept a running tally of even the smallest lights, and as a black man, seemed to attribute every difficulty in his life as stemming from racism. When Teresa voiced her concern to Dorner, he was defensive. As Dorner failed to respond to training, and her critiques became more pointed, Dorner fought back.

He went to internal affairs and filed a use of force complaint against Teresa. In the complaint, Dorner claimed that while on a call, she repeat