LOS ANGELES — Probationary Deputy Angel Reinosa, who falsely claimed he was shot by a sniper in the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station parking lot, is no longer employed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced in a Wednesday morning press conference at the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles.
“At this point in the investigation we’re now faced with both a criminal investigation and a personnel matter,” Villanueva said at the press conference, which was broadcast live on the Sheriff Department’s Facebook page.
Villanueva added that by law he “cannot comment on confidential peace officer personnel matters.”
“I have said on numerous occasions that transparency is vital for public trust. I have also stated that my priority is community service, and I will not stand for any member of my department who violates the public trust,’’ Villanueva said.
The sheriff added that employment law limits what he can say about personnel issues.
“But what I will tell you is that I have taken swift administrative action in the matter, and as of last night, Deputy Angel Reinosa is no longer employed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department or by the County of Los Angeles,” Villanueva said, adding he cannot speculate on why Reinosa did what he did.
Reinosa, 21, claimed he had been shot in the shoulder by a sniper from a nearby apartment building as he walked to his personal car in the station’s parking lot on Aug. 21.
Sheriff’s homicide investigators spent the next 72 hours conducting interviews, collecting evidence, and conducting forensic analysis.
“By Saturday, evidence examination established a need to interview Deputy Reinosa, at which time he admitted that he had not been shot,” Villanueva said at the press conference. “By Saturday evening, it was apparent that the shooting was a hoax.”
Villanueva called for a Saturday night press conference where Assistant Sheriff Robin Limon and Homicide Bureau Capt. Kent Wegener told reporters Reinosa fabricated the story.
“Even though I wasn’t able to be at the news conference, I knew that the information had to be disseminated to put the community at ease,” Villanueva said.
Villanueva added he shared the disappointment other members of his department expressed about the incident, and that it reflected negatively on the department, which has a history of service and heroism.
“I also want to apologize to the community of Lancaster for any inconvenience this may have caused, and reiterate to you that our sheriff’s department stands with you and will continue our history of service and commitment to your safety and quality of life,” Villanueva said.
Reinosa reported the alleged ambush at 2:48 p.m. Aug. 21. Deputies set up a containment perimeter and conducted an hours-long search of the four-story, 100-unit apartment building from which Reinosa claimed shots were fired toward the station parking lot at the corner of Lancaster Boulevard and Sierra Highway.
Villanueva rushed to the scene after the news broke to check on the welfare of Deputy Reinosa.
“He had what appeared to be some sort of a contusion on his shoulder. It was red, but it was covered partially by a bandage, but did not appear to be what you would normally consider to be a bullet wound,” Villanueva said, adding, “it seemed odd.”
Officials locked down the apartment building and tactical teams conducted a search of each apartment. The incident brought dozens of SWAT deputies via helicopter and armored vehicles to the scene, along with FBI agents, Los Angeles County Fire Department, and California Highway Patrol officers. The containment was broken down at 4:09 a.m. Aug. 22, according to an update on a Twitter account used by the Sheriff’s Department.
In regard to the criminal investigation of the incident, Villanueva said, “It is our intention to present our evidence to the District Attorney’s Office for filing consideration in the very near future.’’
Possible criminal charges could include the false reporting of a crime,Villanueva said.
“We also have the issue of the civil, or recovery of costs, because this was an enormous expenditure of taxpayers’ monies,” Villanueva said.
Villanueva could not say how much the operation cost, but estimated it was in the “hundreds of thousands of dollars” with all of the agencies involved.
“This doesn’t come cheap; that massive deployment of resources, it’s so many different agencies,” Villanueva said.