The Moral Gray of the Dorner Case

Ilani Fay Ulmel

Chris Dorner is a murderer who has killed in cold blood. Yet the opening statement of his public manifesto is incongruously sensible: “I know most of you who personally know me are in disbelief to hear from media reports that I am suspected of committing such horrendous murders and have taken drastic and shocking actions in the last couple of days.” In the remainder of the document, he reasons that the price of national recognition is murder and that, in order to garner public attention, he must kill.

Even though Dorner’s reasoning and level-headedness quickly disintegrate into a fit of accusatory insults, threats and irrelevant noise, there is some truth meshed into his “rambling” nonsense. Chris Dorner is a murderer, but one can still salvage meaning from his 11,338-word manifesto. His insights not only highlight the corruption of the Los Angeles Police Dept., but also bring racism and its prevailing existence in our lives to the attention of the American public. This manifesto is not just the deranged voice of a broken man but one scream echoing the desperate cries of unheard, abused minorities.

There is a context to Dorner’s madness. Embedded in his words are rage, hatred and pain brought on by the unjustifiable torment at the hands of the establishment he worked for. In his letter, Christopher Dorner details a grisly world, where county officers demean others using derogatory terms, seemingly to enforce racial hierarchies or power structures. When Dorner notes that “the department has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days,” he is referring to more than just nepotism and brutality. The LAPD, a law-enforcing institution, is still governed by race. This is the state of our nation—racism is not a relic of the past, but an ever-present reality that is perpetuated within and by institutions.

However, this pressing issue that Dorner introduces is overlooked. The media instead focuses in on the ‘what’ of the story, sacrificing clarity for brevity, instead of the ‘why,’ at least as told by Dorner himself.

On the surface, it is a simple timeline: an action-packed thriller where the wronged but righteous LAPD search for a ruthless ex-cop who has turned his back on Justice. Chris Dorner was an enigmatic creature of myth, appearing everywhere, yet materializing nowhere. He was a fugitive, a merciless cop killer and America’s Most Wanted Man, his head worth $1 million. Despite the countless positive testimonies about him, with no evidence of unprovoked general misconduct or mental disorder, an FBI profiler has labeled Dorner with Narcissistic Personality Disorder based entirely on two negative accounts given by his ex-girlfriends. Journalists often take his nonsensical quotes out of context as representative of the entirety of his manifesto.

Instead of the close analysis that the media gave the Unabomber’s texts, Dorner’s manifesto is dismissed as “rambling” and “self-serving.” Because of this, the issues Dorner raises are obfuscated by the slanted view of reporters. Christopher Jordan Dorner’s manifesto is taken with a grain of salt, and the problems of race, corruption and atrocity are not more thoroughly investigated, which amounts to an injustice itself.

Christopher Dorner was a killer, but he could also have been a decent man destroyed by the establishment he worked for. It is time that we, the people, begin to question and critically think about the issues Dorner raised and how events such as these are portrayed by the media.


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