Fugitive former cop becomes vigilante hero

As the manhunt comes to an end for Christopher Dorner, the ex-cop suspected of killing three, the web has become alight with pro-Dorner messages and memorabilia.

Christopher Dorner, the fugitive ex-California cop and Navy sailor who wrote a troubling manifesto before allegedly killing three people, has turned into a bit of an anti-hero sensation with a robust social media fan club.

As law enforcement scours California and approaches Mexico looking for the hulking ex-cop, Dorner has been the recipient of hundreds of congratulatory tweets and numerous laudatory Facebook fan pages.

On Twitter, many African-Americans are describing Dorner as a black icon, saying his actions should be cemented in Black History Month folklore. Others express sympathy for the lives Dorner took, but believe he is the victim of a racist police department in Los Angeles. Some feel he will become a martyr if he is to die fighting police.  

"God speed, Chris Dorner. It's about time someone did something about crooked cops," one user wrote.

"Christopher Jordan Dorner...another black man set up by the man," another chimed.

On Facebook, praise for Dorner's violent actions has been less scattered, instead organized around the belief that Dorner is a man of integrity driven to commit justifiable violence by the Los Angeles Police Department's mistreatment of him.

One such page has nearly 6,000 members. Its descriptions reads, "I am a man of integrity and honor, help me expose and stop the LAPD." Members have tattooed the page's wall with petitions calling for an end to police brutality and screeds mocking police officers who have gone into hiding amid Dorner's alleged shooting spree. It also contains links to Christopher-Dorner.com, which offers updates, pro-Dorner bumper stickers and various justifications in defense of Dorner's murders. Nearly every post on the Facebook page is followed by dozens, sometimes hundreds, of impassioned comments supporting the suspected murderer.

Los Angeles residents and social media communities have even begun to monetize the manhunt for Dorner and turn his actions into a laughing matter. Gawker reports numerous residents have been spotted wearing shirts and holding signs with slogans similar to, "Not Chris Dorner. Please do not shoot," The shirts make light of two shooting incidents where police opened fire on innocent people they believed to be Dorner attempting to carry out further attacks. In one of the police shootings, LAPD officers shot two women. 

On eBay, Chris Dorner-related domain names are up for sale, with asking prices of $5,000 per name. Other Dorner memorabilia is trickling online, as well. "Attention LAPD: I am not Christopher Dorner" shirts are currently available for $16.99 on eBay.

There are many Los Angeles residents, however, who don't find justification in Dorner's alleged killings. Civil rights attorney Connie Rice expressed anger about the characterization of Dorner as a hero and a misunderstood crusader.

"There is nothing that can ever excuse or condone what he's done," she told NPR. She insisted proclamations about an unevolved, racist LAPD are outmoded and false in today's society. Twenty-five years ago, she says, the LAPD would have never reopened Dorner's dismissal file, which the department did last week. Dorner claimed a training officer was racist toward him, while the department concluded that Dorner had made up the claim.

Anthony Samad, a political science and African-American studies professor at East Los Angeles College, told NPR that he understands why Dorner's story is resonating with young black males in LA.

"Generally, black males have always had to have a cautious approach to encounters with law enforcement," Samad told NPR. He said that parents did — and still do — instruct young black men on how to interact with police in Los Angeles.

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