A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy accused of falsely claiming to have been shot outside the Lancaster sheriff’s station, prompting an hours-long search, made his first court appearance Friday on three criminal charges.
Angel Raul Reinosa — who was a rookie deputy when he reported being shot last August — was charged Jan. 16 with two felony counts of insurance fraud and one misdemeanor count of filing a false police report.
Reinosa’s attorney, Dmitry Gorin, said the 21-year-old former deputy will plead not guilty at his next appearance Feb. 28 at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse.
“He strongly denies the allegations made against him and we intend to vigorously contest the criminal charges that have been lobbed against him,” Gorin told reporters outside court.
“The defense team really intends to demonstrate, and I mean this very strongly, that Mr. Reinosa did not have criminal intent … He strongly believes — which is what he told the police and his brother officers — that he was struck by something,” Gorin said. “He believes strongly that he was shot.”
Reinosa was “taken to the hospital and rendered medical assistance for what he believed were his injuries,” Gorin said, saying he understood that his client received “extensive medical treatment at the hospital” and questioned why that would have happened if there weren’t any injuries. He said there is evidence from people in and around the nearly apartment complex who believed they heard pops and believed that there were people threatening to shoot others.
Reinosa reported that he was shot in the shoulder while standing in the parking lot of the Lancaster sheriff’s station in the 500 block of West Lancaster Boulevard about 2:50 p.m. Aug. 21. The reported ambush triggered the establishment of a massive containment perimeter and an exhaustive, hours-long search of a four-story apartment complex from which Reinosa claimed the shot had been fired.
A nearby school was also placed on lockdown as dozens of SWAT deputies descended on the scene via helicopter and armored vehicles. The search of the building and surrounding area continued until roughly 5:30 a.m. the following day.
On Aug. 24, Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced that the shooting report turned out to be a hoax, and Reinosa was no longer a member of the department.
Sheriff’s officials told reporters 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.
“As sheriff, I am responsible for my deputies and am embarrassed and incredibly disappointed at what this deputy did,” Villanueva said at the time. “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.”
Reinosa was arrested Jan. 16 in Sylmar during a traffic stop by Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives and released on bond early the next morning.
He could face up to 5 1/2 years in jail if convicted as charged, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.