Sand Canyon trespassing allegation, shooting remains unresolved

Signal file photo: Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies respond to reports of a gunshot wound incident in the Sand Canyon area Monday afternoon. January 11, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

The quiet, affluent community of Sand Canyon was disrupted Jan. 11 by a rare trespassing allegation, and even rarer, a shooting, inside the gated community of MacMillan Ranch. 

Whether there will be any legal consequences for anyone involved remains to be seen. 

Around 2 p.m., Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station officials received a call after a man reportedly crashed a red Toyota Tacoma truck through the gate of the residential community. 

The driver, Juan Luis Barahona-Ortega, reportedly had a gun. 

“The vehicle then proceeded into the complex and made a right turn to go northbound,” said Lt. Charles Calderaro. 

The vehicle ended up on MacMillan Ranch Road, near Warm Springs Drive, inside the gate. 

That’s when Steve Lankford, a decorated retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide detective with more than 30 years of experience, and his son-in-law, whose identity has not been made available, reportedly were alerted by neighbors that someone had rammed the gate. 

“So, the guy parked at the end of the street and just sat in his truck, and then one of the other neighbors blocked him in,” said Eddie Hansen, who witnessed the shooting and identified himself as president of the MacMillan Ranch HOA, in an interview shortly after the incident. “The driver, one neighbor and his father-in-law … started having a scuffle and the father-in-law says, ‘Watch out; he’s got a gun.’”  

At that point, the retired detective drew his firearm and shot Barahona-Ortega twice in the upper torso. Barahona-Ortega survived the shooting, per sheriff’s officials, who declined to state why they believe Barahona-Ortega was on the property, as the incident is now under review by the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office. 

Homicide officials were called in to assist in the investigation. They reported finding a gun they suspect belonged to Barahona-Ortega, who did not live in the gated community. 

Detectives with the Homicide Bureau reported in February that a report had been presented to the District Attorney’s Office, which discussed a trespassing allegation against Barahona-Ortega, according to officials.  

With respect to prosecutors’ look into any potential charges, additional reports were received Thursday, and “the case is now under review.” No further comment would be given at this time, according to Ricardo Santiago, a spokesman for the D.A.  

In 2018, Lankford, who was already retired at that point, was recognized by then-Sheriff Jim McDonnell with a Quality of Service Award for his work on a cold-case investigation that helped close the 1978 murder of Leslie Long. He previously served 33 years with the Sheriff’s Department.

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