A single gunshot was heard as police moved in on a mountain cabin where former US policeman and triple-murder suspect Christopher Dorner was believed to be barricaded, the Los Angeles Times has reported.
A Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) spokesman was cited as saying on Tuesday (local time) the force believed that Dorner died inside the burning cabin in the mountains east of Los Angeles. Investigators found charred human remains several hours later, which they will attempt to identify with forensic analysis.
Officers broke the cabin windows, pumped in tear gas and called for Dorner to surrender over a loudspeaker, the LA Times said.
When they got no reply, they deployed a vehicle to rip down the cabin walls.
It did so "one by one, like peeling an onion", a law enforcement official told the newspaper. When it got to the last wall, a single gunshot was heard, before flames began to spread through the structure.
KTLA 5 television cited LAPD spokesman Andrew Smith as saying: "We believe he is dead. We believe he was in that cabin. We believe he was burned up in that cabin."
Smith had earlier said that the LAPD was getting its information from the San Bernadino County Sheriff's office, the lead agency in the operation near Big Bear, two hours to the east of Los Angeles.
San Bernadino Sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Bachman confirmed that one deputy had been killed and another injured in an exchange with Dorner, who has been on the run since last week when he allegedly killed three people.
The suspect was "described as looking similar to Christopher Dorner, and we have reason to believe it is him", she said, while adding: "That is unconfirmed at this time."
Police launched a massive manhunt last week for Dorner, who had already been accused of killing three people, and threatened to kill other police in a chilling online manifesto.
Tuesday's gunbattles began when deputies in the Big Bear area looking for Dorner responded to a report of a stolen vehicle in the area, the sheriff's office said.
Dorner is believed to have broken into a home, tied up a couple and stolen their pickup truck, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department said in an earlier statement.
The people whose vehicle was stolen described the suspect as looking very similar to Dorner, a former Navy reservist who fled from the law on February 6 and has vowed to bring "warfare'' to the LAPD that fired him five years ago.
The vehicle was soon found and the suspect, believed to be Dorner, ran into the forest and barricaded himself inside the cabin. A short time later there was an exchange of gunfire between law enforcement and the suspect.
Local television news outlets aired the sounds of gunfire and shouting in a live broadcast from the Big Bear Lake ski resort area.
Dorner claims he was unjustly fired from the LAPD and has vowed to take revenge on police officers he holds responsible for his 2008 dismissal.
A record $1m reward has been posted for information leading to the capture of the former LAPD officer and US Navy reservist.