The double homicide of a well-liked young couple in Irvine, Ca. on Sunday night was puzzling. Acquaintances were repeatedly quoted in media reports saying they couldn't imagine who would want do the victims harm. Tonight Irvine police released a statement --- the who, the why --- that clears up some of the mystery, and uncovers a motive both unexpected and bizarre.
Monica Quan, 28, was an assistant women's basketball coach at Cal State Fullerton. Her fiancee, Keith Lawrence, 27, was a Campus Safety Officer at USC. The couple --- college sweethearts who both played basketball at Concordia University in Irvine --- were found dead from multiple gunshot wounds in Lawrence's parked car, on the top floor of the parking structure of their condo unit. The unit required a key code and had several surveillance cameras, and was widely believed to be secure. A passer-by noticed Lawrence and Quan slumped over in the car and called police around 9 p.m. Sunday night.
Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence
Initial police statements said the couple was shot by someone outside the car. None of their personal items appeared to be disturbed, and robbery seemed an unlikely motive. Some news reports mentioned in passing that Quan's father was a former LAPD Captain, now retired.
Maybe because it has been in the news lately the case reminded me of the 2005 stabbing death of Jeong Hyok Im, a professor at the University of Missouri whose body was stuffed into the trunk of his car, which was then set on fire, in a campus parking garage. Im was a research scientist who worked part-time in the microbiology department, and his murder inspired feverish conspiracy theories about stealth bio-weapons research and assassination.
But last week authorities in Missouri announced a combination of DNA and confidential information had finally provided them with an answer in Im's murder --- a troubled local, Timothy Hoag, who had a record of petty thefts and assaults, was the perpetrator. Hoag committed suicide last August. His death freed people with information about his involvement to come forward. Indications are that Hoag was simply intending to steal a car or pull some low-level robbery when he fatally attacked Im for unknown reasons.
Even though the Irvine murders didn't look like robbery, I assumed something similiar to Im's case was behind it, a botched encounter by an impulsive low-level criminal.
Which is why I was shocked tonight to see the breaking headline scrolling across The Huffington Post: "Christopher Dorner, Former LAPD Officer, Identified As Suspect in Murder of Monica Quan, Keith Lawrence."
Christopher Dorner, 34, was fired from the LAPD in 2009 after a review board concluded he'd made false statments about his training officer. Monica Quan's father, Randal Quan, represented Dorner in the matter, and Dorner blames Quan, along with about a dozen other members of the LAPD, for his termination and subsequent downward spiral. We know this because Dorner posted a "manifesto" online, a 11,000 + word diatribe in which he obsesses over his grievances and threatens violence against those who've wronged him.
Dorner's manifesto is chilling, gripping and bizarre. "To: America," he writes. "Subject: Last resort." There's no question what he's threatening. "I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own," he writes, addressing his enemies. "I'm terminating yours."
Dorner is at large and the subject of a police manhunt right now. He's 6'0", 270, and believed to be driving a blue 2005 Nissan pick up truck. His last known address was in La Palma.
In one of the most chilling passages Dorner threatens to use all he's learned from the LAPD to take them down. "I know your TTP's (techniques, tactics, and procedures)," he writes. "Any threat assessment you generate will be useless."
"I am off the grid."
Dorner doesn't seem to think he'll come out of this alive. "If possible, I want my brain preserved for science/research," he writes. He veers into strange, almost lighthearted territory, lamenting how he'll miss the movie Hangover III ("what a trilogy") and expressing admiration for entertainers from Nora Jones to Larry David.
"I love your new bangs, Mrs. Obama."
Probably the most troubling aspect of the document is how unsurprising it all is, how predictable the collection and scope of the grievances (he even revisits a schoolyard taunt.) He resembes in many ways a workplace shooter, though a more careful, methodical planner, one less apt to burst in somewhere with adrenaline-fueld gunfire. But the aftermath is the same: innocent victims who intersected tragically with a mind riddled with misdirected rage.
Near the end of the manifesto Dorner expresses a sentiment, one not always explicity stated by violent revenge seekers, if not in words than in actions. It's hidden in the middle of a paragraph, a chilling, simple sentence that conveys his point of view, the axis around which his violence turns.
"I have nothing to lose."
*You can find the manifesto online. I chose not to link to it, as it contains names and is frequently graphic in its threats.