Family threatened by ex-cop recalls ordeal
Feb. 20, 2013
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police Sgt. Emada Tingirides heard the fear in her husband's voice on the phone and stopped the patrol car. Her first thought was that one of their six kids had been killed.
It was Feb. 6, and a manifesto by fugitive ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner had just been found. He threatened to kill police officers and their families over his firing from the department in 2008.
"I know that our family was a target, that my husband was a direct target, and for the first two or three hours, I was in disbelief," Tingirides said Tuesday while recounting the family's six-day ordeal as officers hunted for the rogue former cop suspected at the time of killing three people, including one officer.
Her husband, Capt. Phil Tingirides, 54, headed the three-person disciplinary panel that unanimously decided Dorner should be fired for making a false report.
The family's six kids plus a daughter's boyfriend were under police protection for six days. Officers stood guard throughout the night, escorting the children to sports events and other non-routine activities that Dorner could not have anticipated.
The family slept little as they awaited word on Dorner's whereabouts. They avoided TV news reports.
"The Xboxes got used, the TV was on other channels, we played board games," Phil Tingirides said. "We found that it brought our family closer together."
At a news conference Tuesday, Police Chief Charlie Beck said the department's review of Dorner's firing is under way and will take several months.
Dorner, who was black, claimed he was subjected to racism and was targeted for reporting misconduct. He died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound during a siege of a mountain cabin near Big Bear Lake that followed a spree of violence in which authorities say he killed four people, including two law enforcement officers, and wounded three other people.
The threats in Dorner's 11,000-word manifesto posted to Facebook, and titled "Last Resort," led the LAPD to place about 50 officers and their families under protection.
Some decided to leave town, but the Tingirideses stayed in their Irvine home because of the logistics.
"The most ironic thing, is the first thing we talked about, and we had offers, 'Come on up to Big Bear,'" Phil Tingirides said.
Hype about Dorner's police and military prowess in the manifesto and the media made it difficult to sort fact from rumor.
"I had this vision of him climbing through the manholes and coming up and slitting the officers' throats and coming in silently to kill us all," Phil Tingirides said.
It was hard to explain to the kids. Emada Tingirides, 42, simply told their 10-year-old daughter that "a crazy man is trying to do really bad things," but the girl came back with pointed questions after reading about Dorner on social media. Their oldest son asked about a sniper's shooting range.
"We'd go into the garage and cry, because we didn't want our kids to feel the anguish and the hurt we were feeling," Emada Tingirides said.
Beck said Tuesday that "Dorner did a lot of homework" and they think he conducted surveillance near the homes of those who were threatened.
A neighbor of the Tingirideses said he thinks he spoke with Dorner three or four days before Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence were found murdered in a condo parking lot in Irvine — the same city where the Tingirides family lives. The man had been circling the neighborhood in a pickup truck. When the neighbor saw Dorner's photo and truck on TV, he called the police.
The Tingirideses received strong support for their community, who welcomed them at sporting events despite officers with their rifles standing guard. Phil Tingirides, a captain at Southeast Area for six years, said a group of active gang members even offered to stand guard.
The family didn't know whether it would last six months or two years. After nearly a week under protection, they started talking long-term —considering moving to Colorado or New York.
Both agreed they wouldn't return to work until Dorner was captured.
It was early afternoon when Tingirides received a text message from his ex-wife, who was also under protection, alerting him to the standoff with Dorner in the San Bernardino mountains.
Emada Tingirides called the kids in to join them in the bedroom and they watched the end together.
The Tingirideses had few contacts with Dorner prior to the mention in the manifesto.
Phil Tingirides has been with the LAPD for 33 years. He had never met Dorner before the disciplinary hearing and was not in touch with him afterward.
Emada Tingirides, an 18-year member of the department, recalls a single conversation with Dorner in 2007 when he was dealing with the disciplinary process and brought it up to her.
"He had spoken about being bummed about the incident and that he was telling the truth and he hoped it wasn't being turned into a race thing because he was black," said Emada Tingirides, who is also black.
"I remember flat out telling him this is a process; you're not going through this process because you are black. This has nothing to do with your color," she said. "If you're being honest stick to that."
Phil Tingirides said the incident has helped give him perspective about the community he polices. At 9 square miles, Southeast Area has roughly 45 homicides each year. Some locals asked why he "hunkered down" under such a threat, and he realizes more so now what it's like to live with the threat of violence.
"I have a sense of how a lot of the community that we serve on a daily basis feels," Tingirides said.
Tami Abdollah can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/latams .