Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Phil Tingirides – one of Christopher Dorner’s main targets – says he now knows the meaning of fear, the kind that creeps up in your voice, the kind that sends you to the family garage to cry in private.
And that has made him a better servant of the neighborhoods he serves in Watts, says Tingirides, who hunkered down for nearly a week with his family at their home in Irvine – close to where Dorner killed his first two victims.
“It does give a sense of the real fear that the community I serve faces daily,” he said Tuesday at a news conference at LAPD headquarters.
By his side – at the conference and in a subsequent interview – was his wife, Emada, 42, a sergeant in the department.
As Dorner rained violence for six days in Southern California, Phil and Emada Tingirides put on a brave face for their six children – ages 10 to 24 – trying to downplay the danger while police officers with guns kept guard outside. After the first day, they kept the television and radio off to keep from scaring the children. But sometimes the news broke through.
“There was such an overwhelming feeling of fear, we were putting on our strong face and watching our kids go through this. That was a very emotional thing to go through,” said Phil Tingirides, 54. “I felt the fear of the reality of what he had done and what he could do to our family.”
What Dorner is alleged to have done is kill the daughter of his former attorney and her boyfriend on Feb. 3, apparently in retaliation for his 2008 dismissal from the department for making false accusations against a training officer. The morning after Irvine police named him as a suspect, police say, Dorner stepped up his rampage, killing a Riverside police officer, and also killed a San Bernardino County deputy on Feb. 12 in a raging gunfight before dying in a Big Bear cabin set aflame by tear-gas canisters.
In an 11,000-word “manifesto,” Dorner threatened violence on the LAPD officials he blamed for his firing. Phil Tingirides was named by Dorner as the chairman of the review board that recommended to the chief that his firing be upheld.
Dorner wrote that Tingirides was friends with his training officer and should have been removed from the three-member Board of Rights for having a conflict of interest. In an interview, Tingirides said that with his 33-year tenure, it’s hard to serve on a review panel without knowing someone involved in the proceedings.
The board’s conclusion was upheld in Superior Court and in appellate court. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced Tuesday that criminal defense attorney Gerald Chaleff, who helped investigate the department’s role in the 1992 riots, has been asked to re-examine Dorner’s dismissal. Beck said it probably would take several months before the investigation is completed and becomes public.
Phil Tingirides said he invites the scrutiny, “confident that nothing was inappropriate.”
“Never, ever, did I think somebody would go to this extent in their rage over the decision that was handed out,” Tingirides said.
Emada Tingirides, an African American woman, held herself as proof that there is little if any racism in the LAPD – despite Dorner’s claims that the department hasn’t changed since the Rodney King days. A veteran of nearly 18 years, Emada Tingirides said, “I know in my heart it’s not true.”
However, she understands how some people can feel empathy for Dorner. “Everybody’s sense of reality is different,” she said. “There are going to be people that understand the struggles of Christopher Dorner. … I don’t understand the empathy people have for people who planned out and murdered children. (But) my heart goes out to Christopher Dorner’s mother. He’s her child.”
Emada Tingirides said she first learned of Dorner’s threats on Feb. 6, when Irvine named him a suspect in the killings of Monica Quan, 28, and Keith Lawrence, 27. She was driving a patrol vehicle when Phil telephoned.
“There was this fear in his voice,” she remembered. “I literally stopped my vehicle because I could hear the fear in my husband’s voice.” She initially thought one of their children had died.
Phil wanted her to take a helicopter home. “I don’t do helicopters,” she said.
She learned of Dorner’s writings and wondered, “How could a man who has given so much of his soul … to this department become a target for a man who spent less than 100 days?”
They rounded up their children – some in different households – to be in one location so they could be better protected. Then they tried to explain.
“We told them there was a crazy man trying to do really bad things to all the captains in the department,” Emada Tingirides said.
But the children began getting snippets of the real story. They realized, as Chief Beck put it, “Dorner did a lot of homework that no doubt included physical surveillance.”
They tried to pass the time by playing board games and watching DVDs. (“I didn’t know Adam Sandler had so many movies,” Phil Tingirides quipped.)
And they left the home on occasion to go to youth sporting events, taking with them their LAPD bodyguards. Neighbors brought cookies for the bodyguards. Irvine police brought pizza. The community had put a protective arm around the family.
In the early days of the manhunt, some friends suggested fleeing Irvine.
Said Phil Tingirides: “We had offers, come on up to Big Bear.”
Meanwhile, Beck announced that officers involved in the shooting of two newspaper carriers mistaken for Dorner had been taken off duty, pending an investigation. He added that resolution of the $1 million reward for information leading to Dorner’s capture situation was complicated and was still being studied. Beck said he wanted the money to be paid out.
By TONY SAAVEDRA/ ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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