A Sheriff’s Department news conference Saturday night was the latest turn in the bizarre story of a deputy who reported being wounded last Wednesday by a sniper at the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station, which prompted “hundreds of law enforcement personnel,” including SCV Sheriff’s Station deputies, to respond.
Homicide Bureau investigators with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, who look into any officer-involved shooting reports, went live on Facebook around 11 p.m. Saturday to announce Deputy Angel Reinosa — who reported taking fire while at the station’s parking lot last week — is now the subject of a criminal investigation.
Reinosa’s report prompted a containment, as well as the evacuation of an apartment complex next to the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station, and later, a news conference by Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris, who expressed his outrage over the initial report.
“There was no sniper, no shots fired and no gunshot injury sustained to his shoulder — completely fabricated,” said Lt. Kent Wegener of the department’s Homicide Bureau, during the live, late-night social media broadcast.
Investigators alleged Reinosa confessed to making up the incident during a follow-up interview Saturday, when department officials were trying to question him about his original report of taking fire in the Lancaster parking lot. He allegedly admitted to cutting the holes in his shirt to make it appear as though he’d sustained a wound, according to Wegener’s statement.
“Investigators saw two holes in his uniform shirt, which he represented to coincide with his injury, purportedly caused by the sniper’s bullet,” Wegener said, sharing how investigators confirmed suspicions about the initial report that had already proliferated on social media two days later.
No motivation was given, although speculation abounded on social media. Assistant Sheriff Robin Limon said the Sheriff’s Department intended to “relieve Reinosa of his duties,” at Saturday’s news conference.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva was not at Saturday’s news conference, but issued a statement Sunday on social media.
When pressed by the media at the news conference as to any reasoning Reinosa might have given for his actions, Wegener described Reinosa’s statement as “self-serving … It didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but he didn’t get into details as to why he cut the holes (in his uniform), or why he fabricated the story.”
The 21-year-old deputy was “relatively new,” and still on training status, Wegener added, when asked if the deputy had given any indication he had been seeking recognition or attention for his job performance.
Sheriff’s officials reported Saturday they couldn’t say exactly when their suspicions began, but Wegener said, “There were several things that were curious — either the evidence that was recovered or the lack of evidence,” referring to the fact that there was no ballistic evidence to indicate a shot had been fired.
Sheriff’s officials initially reported an Airsoft pellet gun was found in the apartment building, but deputies now say that had nothing to do with the incident.
Reinosa was treated at the hospital for “what they termed as a grazing gunshot wound, because that’s what he reported,” Wegener said.
“It’s extremely disappointing,” Limon said, adding that the Sheriff’s Department expects to hold its deputies to a higher standard.
Sheriff’s officials said the false report of an emergency would likely be a charge presented to the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office for consideration, although ultimately pursuing such charges would be a determination for prosecutors, and the case was still part of an active investigation.