Authorities on Wednesday examined human remains found in a burned out mountain cabin to determine whether they belong to Christopher Dorner, a fugitive ex-cop wanted in at least three murders.
Police discovered the remains in the cabin's charred ruins after a chase ended in a shootout with police and fire near Big Bear in the snow covered mountains east of Los Angeles where Dorner was thought to have taken refuge.
A police officer was reported killed and another wounded in the gunfight Tuesday.
"Identification will be attempted through forensic means," the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department said in a statement.
Law enforcement had earlier said it was too hot to enter the burned-down cabin, and that forensic tests may take days to establish if Dorner had died at the scene after a six-day manhunt.
Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) spokesman Andrew Smith earlier denied media reports that a body had been found and identified as Dorner.
"Nobody has been identified and no one has been located," he said Tuesday, declining to formally confirm the end of an exhaustive police search that has rattled nerves across southern California and beyond.
However, earlier reports indicated that the man who ended up in the cabin was believed to be Dorner.
"We had reason to believe that that was Christopher Dorner," Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's office, told reporters.
"We believe that he was still inside the cabin" when the blaze erupted as police moved in, she said. "And we believe he is still inside that cabin that caught fire."
Dorner, a disgruntled 33-year-old former policeman, had allegedly killed three people before going on the run last week, after posting a chilling online manifesto threatening to kill more officers.
The search centered on Big Bear in the San Bernardino mountains, but there were also reported sightings elsewhere in California and a suggestion that he may have fled to Mexico.
The LA Times said a single shot was heard as police moved in on the cabin, suggesting Dorner may have taken his own life, though that was not confirmed.
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.
Smith, the LAPD spokesman, said the confrontation began after a vehicle was reported stolen from another cabin near Big Bear by someone who looked like Dorner.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff's office immediately launched a ground and air search, and located the vehicle nearby.
"Shortly thereafter, this individual barricaded himself in one of the cabins there and an exchange of gunfire occurred. During that exchange of gunfire, two officers were injured," Smith said.
The Los Angeles Times reported that one of the officers later died.
Local media had earlier reported that the suspect had tied up a couple in a cabin before fleeing. Smith did not confirm those details and insisted that police remain on alert until Dorner is confirmed as dead or captured.
KTLA 5 said more than 200 officers had surrounded the cabin near Big Bear, where Dorner's burned out pickup truck was found last week shortly after the manhunt was launched.
The massive manhunt was launched last week after Dorner allegedly killed a couple and a policeman, and injured another three, while pledging online to kill officers in revenge for his 2008 sacking from the police force.
In the rambling manifesto, he vowed to "bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform whether on or off duty."
Some 50 LAPD officers and families had been placed under special protection. The couple murdered two weeks ago included the daughter of a former LAPD officer linked to Dorner's dismissal.