A “major update” on the Lancaster shooting investigation will be announced in Los Angeles Wednesday morning by Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
The announcement, scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Hall of Justice, 211 W. Temple St., comes after a rare Saturday night news conference where department officials revealed that the rookie deputy who claimed he was shot in the shoulder at the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station “completely fabricated” the incident and would be relieved of his duties.
Investigators who met with 21-year-old Deputy Angel Reinosa “saw no visible injury to Reinosa’s shoulder,” department officials said. After being interrogated due to doubts raised from his testimony, Reinosa admitted that he was not shot at from an apartment complex near the station as he previously claimed, sheriff’s Capt. Ken Wegener said.
“He also told investigators that he had caused the holes in his uniform shirt by cutting it with a knife,” Wegener said. “There was no sniper, no shots fired and no gunshot injury sustained to his shoulder. (It was) completely fabricated.”
Reinosa has failed to provide information concerning his motivation, according to Wegener.
A criminal investigation has been launched, Assistant Sheriff Robin Limon said.
“We intend on relieving Deputy Reinosa of his duties,” Limon said.
The investigation is ongoing and the sheriff’s department plans to present the case to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office for consideration of charges that could include false reporting of an emergency, the captain said.
A statement released by Villanueva revealed disappointment and regret over Reinosa’s apparent dishonesty and the significant waste of time and energy invested by Reinosa’s colleagues who immediately rushed to his aid in what turned out to be a stunning hoax.
“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.
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 the 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, sheriff’s officials said.
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.