LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge dismissed all claims against Riverside County on Friday in a lawsuit by a camp ranger who argued he should have received $1 million in reward money linked to the apprehension of a rogue ex-Los Angeles police officer.
In May, a three-person panel of retired judges split the multi-agency reward among four people and excluded camp ranger Rick Heltebrake, who was carjacked during the final hours of a manhunt for Christopher Dorner, who died in a shootout.
Authorities say Dorner killed four people, including two law enforcement officers, during his days-long rampage to avenge what he felt was an unfair firing by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth White ruled on Friday that Riverside County had a right to honor the panel’s decision and award its $100,000 in the same manner, with the lion’s share going to a couple who had been bound and gagged by Dorner in their Big Bear cabin, said attorney Kirk Hallam, who represented the county in this case.
Hallam also represents Karen and Jim Reynolds, the couple who received 80 percent of the reward money.
Heltebrake said he should have received the money because he alerted authorities to Dorner’s whereabouts when he called a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy to report the carjacking and described his pickup truck.
Allen Thomas, an attorney representing Heltebrake, did not provide comment.
“The judge looked at all the evidence and on a factual basis ruled (Heltebrake) didn’t have a claim to the reward,” Hallam said.
Hallam said the judge pointed to specific evidence to show “Heltebrake’s call was irrelevant from both a timing standpoint and because they never used the information he provided them.”
The evidence included Heltebrake’s media interviews in which he discussed hearing a gun battle between Dorner and California Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens before his car was stolen, and the fact that Dorner wasn’t located by the details Heltebrake provided to authorities, Hallam said.
Though the judge has dismissed claims against Riverside County, the case continues against the cities of Los Angeles, Riverside and Irvine because those parties did not bring the same motion to the judge.
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