LANCASTER (CNS) - In a rare Saturday night press conference, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officials revealed that the rookie deputy who claimed he was shot in the shoulder at the Lancaster Sheriff's Station “completely fabricated” the incident and would be relieved of his duties.
Investigators who met with 21-year-old Deputy Angel Reinosa “saw no visible injury to Reinosa's shoulder,” department officials said. After being interrogated due to doubts raised from his testimony, Reinosa admitted that he was not shot at from an apartment complex near the station as he previously claimed, sheriff's Capt. Ken Wegener said.
“He also told investigators that he had caused the holes in his uniform shirt by cutting it with a knife,” Wegener said. “There was no sniper, no shots fired and no gunshot injury sustained to his shoulder. (It was) completely fabricated.”
Reinosa has failed to provide information concerning his motivation, according to Wegener.
A criminal investigation has been launched, Assistant Sheriff Robin Limon said.
“We intend on relieving Deputy Reinosa of his duties,” Limon said.
The investigation is ongoing and the sheriff's department plans to present the case to the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office for consideration of charges that could include false reporting of an emergency, the captain said.
A statement released today by Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva revealed stark disappointment and regret over Reinosa's apparent dishonesty and the significant waste of time and energy invested by Reinosa's colleagues who immediately rushed to his aid in what turned out to be a stunning hoax.
“When the news broke on Wednesday, I dropped everything I was doing to be at Lancaster and check on the welfare of Deputy Reinosa,” Villanueva said. “Like many responding personnel, I spent needless time and energy on something that did not happen. Rather than delay reporting what we learned for another day, I felt that it was urgent that we share the truth with the public.
“As sheriff, I am responsible for my deputies and am embarrassed and incredibly disappointed at what this deputy did,” Villanueva said. “I apologize to our community and our elected officials who rallied in our support. During the investigation we had suspicions concerning the validity of the claimed assault, but had to exercise care before accusing an employee of making false statements.
“After investigators were able to establish the facts, we were compelled to share the disappointing truth in our wish to be transparent with the public,” the sheriff said. “I will not tolerate any willful misconduct by any one of our employees. (Reinosa's) actions violated the public's trust. Every day, the men and women of this department work hard around the clock to ensure the public's safety. I do not want the actions of one individual to tarnish our tradition of service.”
Villanueva said any sheriff's department employee undergoing an internal investigation is given due process of the law, and he insisted it will be so for Reinosa.
However, he said, “I will not tolerate anyone who willfully violates their oath of office, makes a false police report, wastes valuable public safety resources and causes fear in the community. Those who choose to violate the public's trust will face at minimum termination and a potential criminal prosecution.”
Officials told reporters late Saturday night that several things did not add up in Reinosa's story: No bullets were recovered in the parking lot, no cars were struck by gunfire and many people in the vicinity did not hear any gunshots.
The alleged ambush was reported by Reinosa at 2:48 p.m. Wednesday, leading to a containment perimeter and an hours-long search of the four-story apartment complex from which Reinosa claimed shots were fired toward the station parking lot in the 500 block of West Lancaster Boulevard.
The apartment building was locked down, as was a nearby school, sheriff's officials said.
Dozens of SWAT deputies descended on the scene via helicopter and armored vehicles. Tactical teams checked each apartment.
The search of the apartment building and surrounding area wasn't concluded until 5:30 a.m. Thursday, according to the department.
The shooting report prompted Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris to express concern about the location of the apartment complex that houses mentally ill people to be so close to the sheriff's station.
“Of course it's insanity,” Parris said. “It's outrageous to have that population in that location. Thank God we don't have a funeral.”
The Association For Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff's (ALADS) issued a statement Sunday condemning the actions by Reinosa.
“ALADS condemns these actions (by Reinosa) in the strongest possible terms. Not only does it bring discredit to the department and our deputies, it jeopardizes the trust and good math we ask for from the public and elected officials. Worst of all, it's a slap in the face of deputies who have been shot in the line of duty and to the families of those who paid the ultimate price for their service.”
“Angry. Embarrassed. Furious. Unbelievable. Ashamed. These are some of the words circulating our station's hallways since last night as our deputies try to wrap their minds around last night's press conference surrounding the incident that occurred in our parking lot on Wednesday, August 21, 2019.
“Our deputies responded to a cry for help and did exactly what they have been trained to do to protect our civilian staff, residents and community. Our community and other first responder partners worked side by side with us to move quickly, effectively and efficiently. There is no shame in that.
On Saturday, the LASD's Lancaster Station made the following post on Facebook:
“We are saddened by the outcome of the investigation, but are so grateful to our community for their cooperation on Wednesday and your ongoing support everyday.”
The actions of one individual are not indicative of who Lancaster Sheriff's Station Deputies are. And we know most people know that. But just in case some of our incredible men and women in tan and green are feeling “embarrassed/angry/ashamed” today, let us remind you of who you really are. One moment does not leave your legacy, the work you do, day in, day out does.
That statement was posted on “My hero wears a badge. LASD AV411 LancasterSheriffsStation AntelopeValleyStrong myherowearsabadge”
Southland civil rights activist Najee Ali on Saturday night called for Reinosa's immediate arrest.
“There were several people who were detained by the deputies while they were investigating a fabricated shooting,” Ali, director of Project Islamic Hope, told City News Service. “(Reinosa) endangered the lives of everyone in that building. The waste of taxpayers dollars and manpower hours are inexcusable.”