D.A. declines case against Sand Canyon trespassing suspect; no case presented against retired detective who shot him

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station officials respond to a shooting in Sand Canyon, Jan. 11, 2021. Bobby Block / The Signal.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has declined to file a case against the man accused of trespassing in a Sand Canyon neighborhood earlier this year, and D.A. officials said there had been no case presented to them regarding the retired detective who shot him. 

At around 2 p.m. on Jan. 11, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station received a report that a man — later identified as Juan Luis Barahona-Ortega — had crashed a red Toyota Tacoma truck through the perimeter of the gated community of MacMilan Ranch.  

Initial reports indicated that Barahona-Ortega had a gun, and neighbors immediately alerted 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. 

“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,” Eddie Hansen, who witnessed the shooting and identified himself as president of the MacMillan Ranch HOA, said 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.’”    

In the end, Barahona-Ortega was shot twice in the chest by Lankford, but would go on to survive his injuries. Officials have not said why the man was on the property.  

On Thursday, officials at the District Attorney’s office announced their decision.  

“A case against Barahona-Ortega was declined due to insufficient evidence,” said Ricardo Santiago, a spokesman for the D.A.’s office. “No case was ever presented to our office regarding Lankford.” 

In a criminal case, an investigation is presented by the detectives to the D.A.’s office, who then review the findings. The D.A.’s office can either decide to decline to file or present the case for prosecution.  

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

The case had been under review as of May, but no case was openly discussed regarding Lankford.  

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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