It was an early, telling illustration of a notion Dorner returned to repeatedly throughout his life — that he was a victim, often wronged by others, records show.
As a teenager in La Palma, in Orange County, Dorner joined the Police Department’s youth program, and decided to pursue a career in law enforcement.
Dorner went on to enroll at Southern Utah University, where he joined the school’s football team and was befriended by a teammate, Jamie Usera.
Usera, who grew up in Alaska, said he and Dorner bonded over the feelings of culture shock that came with being outsiders on the predominantly white, Mormon campus.
Usera said he introduced Dorner to hunting and other outdoor sports. “He was a typical guy,” Usera said. “I liked him an awful lot. Nothing about him struck me as violent or irrational in any way. He was opinionated, but always seemed level-headed.”
Dorner often brought up race issues and the two had heated, but respectful, arguments about the extent of racism in the country, Usera said. “Of all the people I hung out with in college, he is the last guy I would have expected to be in this kind of situation.”
Neil Gardner, an assistant athletic director, knew Dorner through football and echoed Usera, saying Dorner was “never a disgruntled guy.”
Dorner graduated in 2001 with a degree in political science and, soon after, enlisted in the Navy. Over the next several years, military records indicate Dorner received extensive combat and counterterrorism training and earned commendations for his marksmanship with rifles and pistols.
In 2005, while still enlisted in the military, Dorner applied to the LAPD and earned a spot in one of the department’s training academy classes. An officer in Dorner’s class who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to discuss the case, recalled Dorner as “one of our problem children” who frequently pushed the bounds of authority.