Legal Loophole Could Keep $1M Dorner Reward from Being Paid

Reward offered for Christopher Dorner's capture, but not his death.

ByABC News
February 14, 2013, 6:00 PM

Feb. 15, 2013— -- A legal loophole could prevent good Samaritans, instrumental in ending the manhunt for a fugitive ex-cop accused of killing four people, from claiming more than $1 million in reward money because Christopher Dorner died and was not captured.

Last weekend, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pledged $1 million, sourced from private individuals, companies and unions, "for information that will lead to Mr. Dorner's capture."

The L.A. City Council followed up with its own promise of a $100,000 reward, for information "leading to the identification, apprehension and conviction of Christopher Dorner."

But Dorner, accused of killing four people and threatening the lives of several dozen more, was never captured, apprehended or convicted. Instead, he died following a standoff with police near Big Bear, Calif., when the cabin in which he was barricaded burned down with him inside.

The mayor's office has not yet determined if the reward could still be paid out given Dorner died.

"At this time, no decision has been made on the reward," Villaraigosa's spokesman Peter Sanders told ABC in an email.

So far, none of the privately sourced "funds have been deposited into the City's 'Special Reward Trust Fund,'" according to the Frank T. Mateljan, spokesman for the city attorney.

That still leaves an additional $100,000 that the city council could pay with municipal money, but there legal questions there, as well.

"The reward is definitely still on the table," said Jessica Tarman, spokeswoman for Councilman Daniel Zine.

But there are still plenty of questions.

The council ultimately decides how and to whom the reward will get paid. If its members are feeling generous, they could interpret the language of the original offer to make sure a worthy recipient gets paid.

"Arguably, city law is broad enough to allow payment to persons who assisted in the "identification, apprehension OR arrest and conviction" of a suspect," Metaljan said in an email [emphasis his].

If the city decides to honor the reward, there are still multiple steps before a claimant can be paid.

Anyone who thinks they are worthy must apply in writing. That claim would then be reviewed by the LAPD robbery and homicide division, and a recommendation would be made to the police commissioner. The commissioner would tell the council to consider the claim, and the council would vote on it.

So far, no one has come forward to ask for the reward. More than 1,000 leads were called to a city hotline

One couple seems most deserving, if they decide to seek the reward. Jim and Karen Reynolds, a couple in whose Big Bear, Calif., home Dorner is believed to have hidden for days, called in the tip Tuesday that ultimately put police on the trail to Dorner's final location.

On Tuesday, the couple found Dorner at their home. He briefly held them captive, but they managed to escape and call in their tip.