*For Ariana Williams, the afternoon of February 7, 2013 was just another day at the office, working, at the time, in contract administration.
At her desk, she’d gone online to catch up on news about two peace officers shot in Riverside County—one of them killed—and one wounded in Corona.
Then her eyes fell upon a photo of the suspect.
“I said to myself, ‘Oh my God, this guy looks like…this is Chris!’ It was surreal. I was shocked.”
To the general public, Christopher Dorner, the 33 year old ex-Los Angeles Police Officer who went on a murder rampage in revenge for being fired from the police department, has been deemed everything from a member of some secret anti-government organization, to an unlikely People’s Hero fighting a police department rife with corruption.
However to Williams, 34, Dorner is simply a man with whom she entered into a three month relationship in 2006 that ended acrimoniously.
So, when she read the part of the story that mentioned the embittered, well-armed, six feet, 200-plus pound Dorner had written a manifesto, including a “hit list” of people who’d wronged him, “My first thought was not what he might do to the LAPD, but what he might do to ME,” she said. “I figured if he had a list, then I must be on it.”
Thus, for Williams began a fearful, harried week in February of looking over her shoulder; in her rear view mirror; of hiding and thoughts of being found…and doing television interviews.
“It’s been a crazy, crazy, period,” said the remarkably affable Williams, calling from somewhere in northern California. “This still seems a little unreal.”
“This” all started one day in 2006 in a southern California sporting goods store, where Williams, an avid roller skater, had gone to buy new skates. “Out of nowhere this guy comes over and says, ‘Hey! What’s up?’ I said, ‘Nothing—what’s up with you?’”
According to Williams–who made it clear to me that the Dorner she met and dated was the smaller version seen in photos in his LAPD uniform and Navy whites, “not the guy who let himself go” in those media-distributed photos–Dorner “was friendly; talkative. He was very forward, and I found that attractive. He said he wanted to take me out to lunch one day. I gave him my number.”
At some point, Dorner “whipped out his [LAPD] badge. I said, ‘Why are you showing me this?’ He said, ‘You need to know, because it can be a trip dating a cop. You should know what you’re getting into.’ I don’t know why, but I played hard-to-get for a week or two. Then we started going out.”
Things went well in the beginning, Williams said, except that increasingly, Dorner seemed paranoid. During a TV interview I saw her on during the search for Dorner, Williams said that he kept firearms planted in various areas at her place. “He would say, ‘I’m a cop…you never know,’ or ‘You have to be ready.’ Being a cop was his whole identity. His total self-worth seemed to be wrapped up in that.”
I asked Ms. Williams what kind of boyfriend Dorner was. “There wasn’t a whole lot of charisma,” she conceded, “but he was a very intelligent guy. College educated.”
Dorner, she said, made a point of telling her that she was the first black woman he’d ever dated. “He said it was because he was raised around whites. He ‘dogged a lot of white girls out in college.’ His words. He was on the football team, the athletes were popular–he pretty much had his pick. He told me he didn’t date black women because he didn’t want to dog them out. I think that [my being black] was the reason he wanted me to meet his mother so bad, but I never did.”
Gee. I wondered aloud if Dorner was affectionate. “Welllll, Chris was a Gemini,” Williams said through what sounded like a grin. “He wanted to be sexual. A lot.” What does that mean? Was he into, say, rough sex?
“Humph.” Pause. “No comment.”
The relationship nose-dived, said Williams, after Dorner became inconsistent. “He was always at my house, but when we agreed to go out or something, he would flake.” Williams said they agreed that she’d meet him in San Diego during his Naval training. Then he told her not to come. “I’d already paid for the trip and everything.”
That would seem to have been the final straw, but apparently it wasn’t. Williams would later take out a retraining order against Dorner, why, she refused to say. Her implication was that the reason would be revealed sometime in the near future.
Dorner might have been a bit miffed because after they split, Williams posted his name on Don’t Date Him Girl.com, an online community where women post the names of “bad” men. “Yes, I posted his name AND his badge number,” she said defiantly. “Unless they took it down, it’s still up there.”
Back to February 7 2013: when Williams read about Dorner’s alleged crimes, she phoned LAPD. “They came to my work and asked how I knew him, and I told them,” she said. “They didn’t offer me protection or anything. I asked the officer, ‘What am I supposed to do?’ He said, ‘If you see him, dial 911.’”
Williams said that old restraining order, a matter of public record, is how the media, at the height of the Dorner manhunt, found her. “I was home that Thursday night, watching “American Idol,” when a producer from “Good Morning America” called. I agreed and they had a crew at my place by 12 midnight.”
Knowing the interview would run that Friday morning at 7 AM and that Dorner was still a fugitive, the GMA producer suggested Williams not go home but stay in a hotel under an alias at the show’s expense, which she did. After that one night, she was on her own. She paid to stay in two other hotels for two nights each, using different names.
Subsequently, Williams appeared on different CNN programs with Soledad O’Brien and Anderson Cooper. She never explained to me why, fearing for her life, she’d agree to do TV interviews.
However, when Williams responded to my EUR column, “Christopher Dorner, The Movie,” she insisted that of the more than 200 media outlets who have contacted her, I am the only journalist SHE actually reached out to without me first contacting her. She didn’t ask to be interviewed; I replied to her email and asked to interview her.
“People have called me a media whore, a slut, a gold-digger, you name it,” said Williams. “Because I wore yellow during one of my interviews, they said I’m a member of the Illuminati (a purported secret society bent on creating a New World Order). That’s the craziest thing I’ve heard yet. I have a masters degree in education, I’m a decorated veteran of the military who did four years in Afghanistan. I’ve worked in TV and film production; I was [TV political commentator] Bill Maher’s personal assistant during the 2008 writer’s strike. People have judged me heavily. And I know what they think, but they’ve got it all wrong.”
She then requested that if I used her photo, not to use the one online with her in polka dots.
I asked her how she felt when Dorner was killed. “It’s a tragedy,” she said. “All around. I mean, people died; people are still in the hospital. It’s a tragedy…that’s all I’ll say on that. My lawyer is going to think I’ve said too much as it is.”
Steven Ivory, journalist and author of the essay collection Fool In Love (Simon & Schuster), has covered popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio and TV for more than 30 years. Respond to him [email protected]M