FUGITIVE ex-policeman Christopher Dorner hid for at least five days in a US mountain cabin before surprising the owners, tying them up and stealing their car just hours before his presumed death in a fiery confrontation with police, the couple said.
Karen and Jim Reynolds said Dorner was upstairs in their rental condo in the mountains east of Los Angeles around noon on Tuesday when they arrived to clean it.
The building is across the street from a command post established by authorities as they scoured the mountain for Dorner.
The fired Los Angeles policeman, who was sought at the time for three killings, confronted the Reynolds with a drawn gun, he "jumped out and hollered, 'Stay calm,'" Jim Reynolds (66) said.
His 56-year-old wife screamed and ran down the staircase, but Dorner caught her, Mr Reynolds said.
"He said, 'I don't have a problem with you, so I'm not going to hurt you,'" Mr Reynolds said. "I didn't believe him. I thought he was going to kill us."
Authorities have not corroborated the couple's account, which matches early reports from law enforcement officials that a couple had been tied up and their car stolen by a man resembling Dorner.
The Reynolds said they were the ones held by Dorner – not two cleaning women, as was widely reported.
The manhunt began last week after Dorner was linked to the killings of a former Los Angeles police captain's daughter and her fiancee. He is also accused of killing two law enforcement officers.
After surprising Dorner in the cabin, the Reynolds said they were taken to a bedroom where they were ordered to lie down. Dorner bound their arms and legs with plastic ties, gagged them with towels and covered their heads with pillowcases wrapped with extension cords, they said.
"I really thought it could be the end," Mrs Reynolds said.
The couple believes Dorner had been staying in the cabin at least since Friday last. Dorner told them he had been watching them by day from inside the cabin as they did work outside. The couple, who live nearby, only entered the unit on Tuesday.
Dorner repeatedly told the couple he just wanted to clear his name. He was calm and methodical during the ordeal, she said.
At one point, Mr Reynolds said, "He huddled down beside me and said 'You're going to be quiet, right? Not make a fuss and let me get away?'''
Dorner then fled in their vehicle. A short time later, Mrs Reynolds was able to get to her feet and call police from a mobile phone on the coffee table. "Dorner tied us up, and he's in Big Bear," she recalled telling the dispatcher.
Authorities say Dorner later carjacked another man and killed a deputy in a shootout then holed up in another cabin that caught fire after tear gas was lobbed inside.
He is presumed to have died there, although authorities haven't officially confirmed his identity.