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Some See Fired-Cop Who's On The Lam As A Victim

The fired Los Angeles police officer who has been targeting other officers remains a fugitive. Chistopher Dorner is wanted in connection with three murders. Dorner claims he was fired because of racism. That claim has struck a chord with many of the city's Black and Latino residents

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Christopher Jordan Dorner is still a fugitive. He is the fired Los Angeles cop who's been targeting police officers and others in the L.A. area. The first criminal charges have been filed against him; police in Riverside County have charged him with the shooting death of an officer there. Dorner says racism was behind his 2009 firing and NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports he does have some sympathy in L.A.'s black community.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES, BYLINE: There are at least 10 Facebook pages devoted to Christopher Dorner, and more are popping up each day he remains at large. Some see him as a freedom fighter, others as the victim of police corruption and racism. Many of the posters are black, and many express abhorrence for Dorner's killings but admit some sympathy because of the racist treatment he says caused his dismissal from the LAPD.

Tell that to civil rights lawyer Connie Rice, and she explodes,

CONNIE RICE: There is nothing that can ever excuse or condone what he has done.

BATES: Rice was on her shaky cell, en route to yet another interview to tell whoever will listen that this is not the LAPD made infamous in movies such as "Boyz in the Hood," which portrayed black hostility toward the cops born of arbitrary stops.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BOYZ IN THE HOOD")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as police officer) Got any drugs or weapons on ya?

(as suspect) No.

BATES: Rice says her position isn't popular with many of her fellow black Angelenos, but too bad. She insists that the LAPD's recent decision to reopen records for the disciplinary hearing in which Dorner was accused of lying about his training officer's abusive behavior is proof enough that things have changed.

RICE: I can tell you 25 years ago, there never would have been any question of that ever even being considered, number one. Number two, there would have never have been any kind of investigation in the first place.

BATES: Anthony Samad says Rice's opinion may be in the minority. A political science and African American studies professor at East Los Angeles College, Samad agrees that Dorner's alleged murders are unacceptable. But, he says, the fugitive is getting some understanding within black L.A. because there are long memories about the LAPD's past relationship with its black citizens here, especially males.

ANTHONY SAMAD: Generally, black males had always had to have a cautious approach to encounters with law enforcement.

BATES: Samad says he knows this from more than an academic remove. He grew up in L.A., and says black parents gave their sons very specific directions about how to interact with police if they were stopped as teen drivers.

SAMAD: You know, our parents had to socialize us into responding properly to the police: let them see your hands at all times, don't run, give them truthful information. Don't give them a reason to abuse you or shoot you.

BATES: He insists it was common instruction then and is still given to young men today. The search for Christopher Dorner continues, and on Sunday, at a press conference with area and FBI officials, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a joint effort by businesses and individuals.

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA: Collectively this group, led by my office, is posting a reward of $1 million for information that will lead to Mr. Dorner's capture.

BATES: Authorities assume Dorner is heavily armed. And jittery nerves have led to instances where police have fired on civilians they thought were driving trucks that resembled the one Dorner is supposed to have used in his escape. Those mistakes have led to a cottage industry of T shirts and bumper stickers that are starting to be seen on the streets of L.A., on Facebook and for sale on eBay. They all say some variant of: Don't shoot - I'm not Chris Dorner. Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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