Writer's Notes

Officer Down-Michael Crain, Riverside PD

By Janet Zimmerman
The Press Enterprise

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The Riverside police officer who was gunned down last week while on patrol was identified Sunday as Michael Crain, a decorated Marine who leaves behind a wife and two young children.

Crain was described by a former patrol partner as a family man who could easily calm a situation on the job by the way he spoke to people. He was one of the department’s finest officers and was “everybody’s friend,” Patrolman Joshua Ontko said.

Officer Michael Crain-Riverside PD
Officer Michael Crain-Riverside PD

Riverside Police Image


“Mike was just a good person that made a great cop,” said Ontko, who rode with him almost a decade ago.

Crain’s funeral is set for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, at The Grove Community Church in Riverside. Ontko will be one of his honor guards.

Police withheld Crain’s name for three days after the attack, fearing that his family would be targeted by the suspected gunman, Christopher Dorner, an ex-Los Angeles policeman who has vowed to kill police officers and their families. The Press-Enterprise agreed not to publish it until shortly before it was announced Sunday.

Crain was a Riverside County resident. His family is under protection, Riverside police Lt. Guy Toussaint said.

Crain’s name was made public at a Los Angeles news conference where law enforcement officials from numerous agencies announced an unprecedented $1 million reward leading to Dorner’s capture and conviction.

Riverside Mayor William “Rusty” Bailey acknowledged the bravery and sacrifice of Crain and other officers who ensure the public’s safety.

“We lost one of those courageous souls this week, and we stand here today in solidarity to ask Christopher Dorner to surrender without further loss of life,” Bailey said.

Crain, 34, was a husband and father who relished life’s simple joys: spending time with his wife, Regina; coaching his 10-year-old son Ian’s baseball team; watching his 4-year-old daughter Kaitlyn dance.

Family was Crain’s No. 1 priority, Ontko said.

On the job, Crain was someone other officers wanted to be around. And he always treated people he came across with respect, Ontko said.

“He had a way of talking to people … and people listened to him,” he said. “What he taught me was that, half the time, people, no matter what their situation is, just want to be heard.”

Crain also was focused on officer safety. When he responded to a call, he did it in the safest way, said Ontko, 34. He was always aware of his surroundings, always had a plan if something went bad.

“That’s what’s so sad. He didn’t even have a chance. There’s nothing he could have done. He never even saw it coming,” Ontko said of the shooting.

Ontko and Crain shared a love of old cars. In his spare time, Crain worked on his classic 1970 Chevy Nova.


Information released Sunday, Feb. 10, by Riverside police painted a picture of a big-hearted man who kept his “huge personality” hidden behind a straight face.

“He made an unforgettable impression on everyone he met,” a department news release said.

Crain has a younger brother, Jason, and sister, Leslie, the department said. Jason Crain, who owns Hired Guns Lawn and Tree Care in Redlands, said Sunday his family did not want to talk and would release information about Michael through the Police Department.

Crain was born in Anaheim and raised in the Riverside area, police said. After graduating from Redlands High School in 1996, he studied at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa for a year before joining the Marine Corps.

He was deployed twice in Kuwait as a rifleman in the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. He was a squad leader and was promoted to the rank of sergeant.

He was then stationed at Camp Pendleton, where he taught military operations in urban terrain, specialized training that used techniques Crain would later use on the Riverside police SWAT team.

During his military service, Crain was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with one star, a certificate of commendation and the Rifle Marksmanship Badge.

Crain went straight from the Marines to the Riverside Police Department in August 2001. In addition to the SWAT team, Crain served as a helicopter observer and a firearms instructor, and was assigned to the University Neighborhood Enhancement Team, an effort with UC Riverside police to patrol the area around campus.

Fatal Shooting

Crain also was a field training officer. That’s what he was doing on the graveyard shift Thursday, Feb. 7, when a vehicle pulled up next to their patrol car and a suspect opened fire with an assault rifle.

Crain was killed. His partner, a 27-year-old trainee whose name is still being withheld by police, was shot in the arms and shoulders while sitting in the driver’s seat.

The trainee was incapacitated by the wounds and had to rely on a witness to the shooting to help him push the microphone button on his radio to make a distress call, Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said.

Police identified Christopher Dorner, 33, as the shooter. He was fired from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2009 for making a false accusation against his training officer.

Dorner posted a manifesto on his Facebook page denying that he lied and vowing to kill police officers and their families until LAPD officials acknowledge truth in his allegation that his training officer used excessive force against a mentally ill man she was arresting.

Police say Dorner killed Monica Quan, the daughter of a retired LAPD captain who represented Dorner during his unsuccessful fight to keep his job, and her fiancé, Keith Lawrence, in Irvine on Feb. 3.

Four days later, about 20 minutes before the 1:35 a.m. attack on Crain, Dorner allegedly fired at two LAPD officers who were in Corona to protect someone listed in Dorner’s manifesto.

One of the officers was grazed in the head by a bullet.

Dorner’s Nissan Titan truck was found smoldering in the San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear later that morning. Police are focusing their search in that area.

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