Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

A man who said he alerted authorities to the whereabouts of rogue ex-LAPD Officer Christopher Dorner may pursue his claim to more than $1 million in reward money offered in the case, a state appeals court panel ruled Tuesday.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal panel unanimously reversed a lower court judge, who dismissed all claims against the city of Los Angeles and the county of Riverside.

Richard Heltebrake, a camp ranger, maintained in a lawsuit filed in April 2013 that he is entitled to all of the more than $1 million in multi- agency rewards because his 911 call put authorities on the trail that eventually led to Dorner.

The cities of Riverside and Irvine also were sued by Heltebrake.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White said the claims against the city of Los Angeles and Riverside County infringed on “protected activities” and dismissed all claims against both entities.

Justice Richard Mosk, writing for the three-member panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal, stated that municipal entities cannot opt out of a contract by claiming that their actions were protected by free speech.

“Just as oral contracts or promises that are sought to be enforced could not reasonably be protected activities, here, too, the alleged breach of an enforceable promise does not arise from protected activities,” Mosk wrote.

Mosk said the issue is whether there a breach of a verbal contract occurred and that therefore Riverside County’s lawyers were not convincing in their free-speech reasoning.

Tuesday’s ruling sends the case back to Los Angeles Superior Court for trial.

Dorner, who lived with his mother in La Palma, promised warfare on LAPD officers and their families for what he believed was his unjustified firing. The 33-year-old Navy reserve officer killed four people during his nearly one- week run from authorities in 2013.

Dorner died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound during a stand-off with police at a cabin in the the unincorporated San Bernardino Mountains community of Angelus Oaks.

The legal tangle over the rewards is further complicated by a decision in May 2013 of a panel of three retired judges appointed to make a final determination about the money.

The judges found that 80 percent of the money should go to a couple who were bound and gagged by Dorner in their Big Bear cabin. The panel also recommended that a ski resort employee be awarded 15 percent and a tow truck driver 5 percent. Heltebrake was not entitled to any of the money, according to the retired judges.

— Wire reports 

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