By Sandy Malone and Holly Matkin
San Jose, CA – A Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputy who claimed to have been ambushed and shot on duty a year ago has been charged with faking the attack and fabricating the whole story.
Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Deputy Sukhdeep Gill called dispatch just after 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 31, 2020 to report that he had been ambushed by two men in a silver Honda Accord, The Mercury News reported at the time.
Deputy Gill said he was on patrol near the Uvas Reservoir when he decided to pull over and take a look around on foot.
He said that moments later, an older-model, silver Honda Accord approached him, KNTV reported at the time.
The deputy told responding officers that the gunmen opened fire, shooting him squarely in the chest, according to The Mercury News.
He claimed the bullet had struck his bodycam and said he was also wearing a ballistic vest.
His patrol vehicle had also been struck by several bullets, The Mercury News reported.
Deputy Gill said he immediately fired two rounds at the shooters as they sped away from the scene.
Investigators said the attackers fired at least four times during the encounter, The Mercury News reported.
Deputy Gill immediately radioed dispatch that shots had been fired, but dispatchers were initially unable to get him to respond in the minutes that followed.
The deputy later explained the delay by claiming he had fallen down an embankment and said it took him two minutes to crawl back up to the roadway, The Mercury News reported.
Deputy Gill was treated and released for his non-life threatening injuries, and received numerous accolades from Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith, KNTV reported.
“He was very lucky, very brave under fire,” Sheriff Smith said.
“This was an ambush,” Sheriff Smith told reporters. “Based on the evidence, it was an unprovoked attack on our deputy, and our suspects are wanted for premeditated attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.”
A massive manhunt and investigation was launched and Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Detective Brandon Omori announced that the ambush on Deputy Gill was being investigated as a possible hate crime, KNTV reported.
“We’re looking at all possibilities,” Det. Omori said. “Deputy Gill is a practicing Sikh and he was wearing head dress and garb.”
The detective said Deputy Gill had the department’s support regardless of whether he was targeted for being a Sikh or for being a member of law enforcement, The Mercury News reported.
But as the investigation continued, detectives discovered that the 27-year-old deputy’s story wasn’t panning out, KTVU reported.
Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Sergeant Michael Low said the “incident was fabricated and facts were not adding up.”
Jason Malinsky, a prosecutor with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office Public Law Enforcement Integrity Unit, said ballistics evidence showed that Deputy Gill had shot his own bodycam and had shot at his own patrol vehicle, KTVU reported.
Prosecutors have said they don’t know what motivated the deputy to make up the ambush story.
“Not only do you breach that trust and make up a brazen attack, he caused a drain of a substantial amount of community public resources here that are meant to protect the public,” Malinsky told KTVU.
Prosecutors charged Deputy Gill on Jan. 29 with misdemeanor filing a false police report and felony vandalism.
Deputy Gill was already out on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation into the deputy-involved shooting.
He turned himself in and was booked into the same Santa Clara County main jail where he previously worked as a corrections officer, KTVU reported.
Deputy Gill joined the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office in 2016.
The deputy was released from custody and his arraignment is scheduled for March 1, KTVU reported.
If convicted, he could face up to three years in prison for the faked ambush.