A sheriff’s deputy reported on Wednesday that a sniper shot him in a Los Angeles County Sheriff station’s parking lot, and the claim triggered a massive response.
Angel Reinosa, the 21-year-old trainee who reported being shot, said the gunfire grazed his shoulder and was rushed to the hospital. Hundreds of members of law enforcement flooded the city of Lancaster on a manhunt for the alleged sniper. Traffic was diverted and an apartment building cleared as officials searched hours overnight for an upper-floor shooter, coming away with only a pellet gun.
Reinosa will be fired and could face criminal charges, according Homicide Bureau Captain Kent Wegener.
“There was no sniper, no shots fired, and no gunshot injury sustained to his shoulder ― completely fabricated,” Wegener said at a news conference late Saturday.
According to Wegener, Reinosa had admitted to officials earlier in the day that the holes in his uniform were not from gunfire; he cut them himself with a knife. Detectives saw no injuries on the man when he showed up for an interview meant to confirm his statements and check his wounds.
Reinosa did not explain his actions, Wegener said.
“Much of his statement was self-serving, didn’t make a whole lot of sense,” he said, adding that the district attorney’s office will evaluate potential charges against Reinosa such as false reporting of an emergency.
Authorities rushed to help the on-duty trainee Wednesday when he said over his radio that he had been shot at from an open window in a four-story apartment building nearby while walking to his vehicle. Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris announced that Reinosa had only survived because of his bulletproof vest.
“The wound was minor and he’s been treated and he’s doing well, in high spirits,” Sheriff’s Captain Todd Weber said the day of the now-debunked attack, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Issues with Reinosa’s story began to emerge even before his admission Saturday.
Authorities were suspicious that Reinosa had no apparent injuries when he showed up to the emergency room, NBC L.A. reported. Reinosa had said one bullet hit him, while another flew past him.
“This is not adding up,” the news outlet quoted a member of law enforcement saying.
At Saturday’s news conference, officials recounted oddities such as the lack of a bullet recovered in the parking lot. Interviews with witnesses and a review of surveillance footage did not support Reinosa’s tale.
“We are incredibly disappointed,” assistant sheriff Robin Limon said.