A rookie deputy who falsely claimed he was shot in the shoulder outside the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station a week ago is no longer with the department, which will present its findings to the district attorney’s office, Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced Wednesday.
An investigation determined that 21-year-old Deputy Angel Reinosa had not been ambushed on the afternoon of Aug. 21 as he had claimed, Villanueva said at a news conference at the Hall of Justice.
“We are now faced with both a criminal investigation and a personnel matter,” Villanueva said.
“Please keep in mind by law I cannot comment on confidential peace officer personnel matters,” he said, adding that he could not “speculate on why he did what he did.”
“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,” the sheriff said. “Employment law limits what I 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 also referred to the “criminal investigation of this incident,” saying, “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 alleged “false reporting of a crime,” Villanueva said, or false reporting of an emergency.
Villanueva said that he felt it was necessary to release the information about the hoax to the public in a timely manner, so he ordered a rare Saturday night news conference where department officials revealed that the rookie deputy had “completely fabricated” the incident and would be relieved of his duties.
A statement released by Villanueva earlier expressed his disappointment and regret over the rookie’s apparent dishonesty and the significant waste of time and energy invested by Reinosa’s colleagues who immediately rushed to his aid.
“When the news broke on Wednesday, I dropped everything I was doing to be at Lancaster and check on the welfare of Deputy Reinosa,” Villanueva said. “Like many responding personnel, I spent needless time and energy on something that did not happen. Rather than delay reporting what we learned for another day, I felt that it was urgent that we share the truth with the public.
“As sheriff, I am responsible for my deputies and am embarrassed and incredibly disappointed at what this deputy did,” Villanueva said. “I apologize to our community and our elected officials who rallied in our support. During the investigation we had suspicions concerning the validity of the claimed assault, but had to exercise care before accusing an employee of making false statements.”
Villanueva said any sheriff’s department employee undergoing an internal investigation is given due process of the law, and he insisted it will be so for Reinosa.
Sheriff’s officials told reporters late Saturday night that several things did not add up in Reinosa’s story: No bullets were recovered in the parking lot, no cars were struck by gunfire and many people in the vicinity did not hear any gunshots.
The alleged ambush was reported by Reinosa at 2:48 p.m. Wednesday, leading to a containment perimeter and an hours-long search of a four-story apartment complex from which Reinosa claimed shots were fired toward the station parking lot in the 500 block of West Lancaster Boulevard.
The apartment building was locked down, as was a nearby school. Dozens of SWAT deputies descended on the scene via helicopter and armored vehicles. Tactical teams checked each apartment.
The search of the apartment building and surrounding area wasn’t concluded until 5:30 a.m. Thursday, according to the department.