Los Angeles, CA – The former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who caused a panic when he fabricated a story about being hit by sniper fire in the parking lot of the Lancaster station house in August of 2019 was arrested on Thursday.
Police shut down a large area around the sheriff’s station and evacuated the entire apartment building after 21-year-old Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Angel Reinosa reported that he had been ambushed while walking to his car at about 2:45 p.m. on Aug. 22, KABC reported.
“I have taken shots from the north of the Lancaster helipad,” Deputy Reinosa radioed the dispatcher to report that he had been wounded. “I think I’m hit in the right shoulder. It might have gone through… my shirt’s ripped alright.”
“I think it’s from the apartment windows. There’s multiple windows open,” he put over the radio seconds later.
There is a four-story residential building with a mental health facility beside it next to the sheriff’s staff parking lot.
Hundreds of people were evacuated from the apartment building as deputies conducted a room-by-room search for the shooter, KABC reported.
A school that was considered to be in shooting range for the gunman was immediately locked down and students were evacuated, according to CNN.
Small teams of deputies dressed in tactical gear did a car-by-car search in a parking structure nearby the sheriff’s station parking lot.
The search of the complex, conducted by deputies wearing full protective gear in 105-degree temperatures, ended just before 11 p.m.
Hundreds of hours of manpower were spent searching for the gunman who had tried to kill the 21-year-old patrol trainee who had been assigned to the Lancaster station for about three months.
The sheriff’s office initially said that a bullet hit Deputy Reinosa in his ballistic vest and ricocheted up to his shoulder, but three days later, they had an entirely different story to tell.
“The deputy has indicated that he fabricated the whole thing. So there was no crime. There were no shots fired,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau Captain Kent Wegener said.
He said that Deputy Reinosa said he had used a knife to cut the holes in his shirt that he said were the result of a bullet.
“There was no sniper, no shots fired, and no gunshot injury sustained to his shoulder ― completely fabricated,” Capt. Wegener said.
The wound did not penetrate his skin,” he said. “It was a contusion, a bruise.”
“We cleared the whole apartment complex,” Capt. Wegener continued. “We thought we had an armed sniper… When a police officer has been shot, shot at, we respond in force… hundreds of deputy sheriffs, not to mention that the citizens of Lancaster were incredibly inconvenienced.”
He said that what investigators learned in the hours after the alleged sniper ambush didn’t add up.
“There were several things that were curious… there was no ballistic evidence in the parking lot at all,” Capt. Wegener said. “There were no bullets recovered from the point of impact. There were no cars struck by gunfire.”
None of the witnesses interviewed had heard gunfire at the time of the incident, the captain said.
“There were many things that didn’t add up. However, every case is unique,” he said.
Deputy Reinosa was summarily fired by the Los Angeles County sheriff and the Homicide Bureau launched an investigation into the former deputy, the Los Angeles Times reported.
On Thursday, the district attorney’s office charged Reinosa with the misdemeanor of filing a false police report and two felony counts of insurance fraud in connection with a workers’ compensation claim.
Internal affairs detectives effected a traffic stop in Sylmar and served the arrest warrant to the former deputy on Jan 17., the Los Angeles Times reported.
Reinosa was booked into Los Angeles County Jail and bail was set at $40,000.
“Two felonies and a misdemeanor are a sad ending to a promising career,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. “We have an ethical standard for every employee, one that I will always maintain in order to earn the public’s trust.”
Reinosa joined the sheriff’s department a year before he faked being shot at, the Los Angeles Times reported.
He began patrol training in Lancaster in May of 2019 and was about to move into a corrections job in the sheriff’s detention system when the incident occurred.
Sources told the Los Angeles Times that Reinosa had been investigated for dishonesty before.
That incident resulted in discipline, but no recommendation was made for his termination, according to the sources.
Police still don’t know why Reinosa fabricated the story about the sniper.