Riverside County Escapes $1 Million Lawsuit Related to Dorner Reward

Riverside County Escapes $1 Million Lawsuit Related to Dorner Reward


A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge dismissed all claims filed by a local camp ranger against Riverside County; the cities of Los Angeles and Irvine; and the law firm of Richards, Watson & Gershon. 

The lawsuit was filed by camp ranger Richard Heltebrake who believes he is entitled to all of the more than one million dollars in multi-agency reward money. Heltebrake has alleged it was his call to 911 that eventually led sheriff detectives to the location of fugitive Christopher Dorner. 

On Feb. 3, 2013, Dorner a 33-year-old Navy reserve officer reportedly gunned down the daughter and future son-in-law of an ex-police captain who represented him at a Board of Rights hearing. This action began a crime spree by Dorner and resulted in a manhunt that lasted ten days. 

The manhunt came to a violent conclusion when Dorner was found hiding in a cabin in the unincorporated community of Angelus Oaks near Big Bear in the San Bernardino Mountains. Dorner succumbed to a self-inflicted gunshot wound during a shootout with San Bernardino County sheriff deputies. San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Detective Jeremiah MacKay was also fatally shot during the gun battle. 

The recent ruling by Judge Fahey disengaged Riverside County, Los Angeles and Irvine as well as the above named attorneys from the tangled conflict over who is entitled to the reward money. 

The reward money remains in dispute—a dispute some claimed was further exacerbated in 2013 when a three judge panel appointed to make a final determination about the Dorner reward found that 80 percent of the money should go to Karen and James Reynolds, who were bound and gagged by Dorner in their Big Bear cabin; 15 percent should be awarded to Daniel McGowan, a ski resort employee who found Dorner’s burning truck; and that 5 percent should be awarded to tow truck driver, R.L. McDaniel who spotted Dorner’s truck in Corona earlier in the manhunt; nothing, however, was awarded to Heltebrake for his report to 911. According to the judges, Heltebrake, was not entitled to any of the money. 

A little more than a year ago, another three judge panel, this time of the Second District Court of Appeals, unanimously reversed the dismissal of all of Heltebrake’s claims to the rewards. 

Fahey’s recent decision leaves Heltebrake free to pursue his claims against the Reynolds and McGowan for a share of the Dorner reward monies.

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