A former sheriff’s deputy who falsely claimed that he had been shot outside the Lancaster sheriff’s station was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and one year of probation Friday, and was ordered to pay nearly $543,000 in restitution to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for its massive response to the hoax.
Angel Raul Reinosa — who was a rookie deputy when he reported being shot in 2019 — was found guilty last November of a misdemeanor charge of making a false report of a crime, but acquitted of two felony counts of insurance fraud.
Reinosa, now 24, reported that he was struck in the shoulder while standing in the parking lot of the station in the 500 block of West Lancaster Boulevard on Aug. 21, 2019. The reported ambush triggered the establishment of a massive containment perimeter and an exhaustive, hours-long search of an adjacent four-story apartment complex.
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, 2019, then-Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced that the shooting report turned out to be a hoax, and said Reinosa was no longer a member of the department.
“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.”
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.
The case against Reinosa was filed about five months later.
In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Gregory Apt told jurors that Reinosa’s report that he was “taking shots” caused “this huge, huge response by everyone in the sheriff’s department” and that officers at the scene “thought this was real.”
“There’s no doubt that he wasn’t shot, that he made this up,” the prosecutor said of the former deputy, who he said was “having problems at work.”
“He was trying to save himself from getting demoted,” Apt said. “He was trying to go from zero to hero.”
Defense attorney Jesse Ruiz told the panel that his client — who was 21 at the time — felt pain, heard a noise and associated that pain with gunshots.
“He knows what he felt … He didn’t know what it was,” Reinosa’s attorney said, telling jurors that his client’s life has been “turned upside down.”
Reinosa testified in his own defense, telling the panel that he dropped to the ground after hearing two “swoosh” sounds, but didn’t see anyone firing at him.
“Do you actually know what hit you?” the defense attorney asked Reinosa.
“No,” the defendant responded. “I felt pain in my shoulder. I don’t know how it happened.”
Reinosa told jurors that homicide detectives who investigated what had happened didn’t believe him, but he maintained that he did not lie.
Superior Court Judge Michael Garcia rejected the defense’s bid for a judicial diversion program for Reinosa, whose attorney said the defendant has a “clean record” and has applied for law school. The judge also turned down a request for jail time by the prosecutor, who called the defendant’s conduct “so outrageous” and said he had betrayed a position of trust.