Lancaster, CA – Officials announced Saturday night that the Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who said he’d been shot by a sniper in the parking lot of the Lancaster station house on Wednesday afternoon made the entire story up.
"There was no sniper, no shots fired, and no gunshot injury sustained to his shoulder ― completely fabricated," Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau Captain Kent Wegener told reporters at a late-night press conference.
Los Angeles County Assistant Sheriff Robin Limon said investigators had re-interviewed 21-year-old Deputy Angel Reinosa, and the deputy admitted that he lied about being shot at from the apartment building next door to the sheriff’s staff parking lot.
Police shut down a large area around the sheriff’s station and evacuated the entire apartment building after Deputy 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.
Two people were taken into custody briefly, but neither was considered a suspect, KABC reported.
Officials said they were detained for being uncooperative during the search and ignoring evacuation orders.
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 at the press conference on Saturday night, 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,” Capt. Wegener told reporters.
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.
“The wound did not penetrate his skin,” Capt. Wegener said. “It was a contusion, a bruise.”
“We cleared the whole apartment complex,” he 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.
Police don’t know why the deputy fabricated the story about the sniper.
Capt. Wegener called Deputy Reinosa’s statement to investigators “mostly self-serving” and said it “didn’t make a whole lot of sense. He didn’t get into detail as to why he cut the holes or fabricated the story. No motivation.”
Sheriff Limon said the sheriff’s department planned to fire Deputy Reinosa.
The investigation was ongoing and Sheriff Limon said that it would be presented to the district attorney’s office for charging when it was completed.
Officials said Deputy Reinosa would be charged with false report of an emergency at the very least.