Before a sheriff’s deputy allegedly faked being shot by a sniper, he had been investigated for dishonesty by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials, law enforcement sources said.
Deputy Angel Reinosa is now the subject of a criminal investigation after he said he was shot by a sniper outside the sheriff’s Lancaster station, a claim officials said he later admitted was untrue. The incident sparked a massive law enforcement response and days of searching for a phantom gunman.
The sources said that Reinosa had been investigated in the past in another incident involving allegations of dishonesty documented by his supervisors. The sources didn’t provide details but said that at the time of the alleged sniper incident Reinosa was set to move into a job in the sheriff’s detention system. The sources said the investigation led to discipline but no recommendation that he be fired.
The Los Angeles County district attorney‘s office is now deciding whether to charge Reinosa in the sniper incident. A representative could not be reached for comment.
Reinosa, a 21-year-old deputy assigned to the department’s Lancaster station, said he had been on his way to his car in the station’s parking lot when he was hit by rifle fire from a nearby apartment building. He claimed the protective vest he was wearing stopped a shot to his chest, while another bullet had grazed his shoulder.
But investigators noted there had been no 911 calls reporting gunfire in the area and no bullets were found in the parking lot. A hole in his shirt that Reinosa said came from a bullet was far too large, sources said.
And on his own radio call seeking help, Reinosa sounded much too calm for someone who had just been shot, let alone a green deputy still in his first year on the job, multiple sheriff’s officials and others with knowledge of the investigation told the L.A. Times on Sunday.
By nightfall, even as a massive manhunt for his purported attacker continued, Reinosa became the focus of the investigation he had set in motion. Those early suspicions were borne out late Saturday night, when investigators announced Reinosa had concocted the shooting.
“We are all appalled and disappointed,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in an interview with The Times on Sunday. “We intend to hold the individual responsible for breaking the law and most importantly for betraying the community.”
Although it soon became clear that the deputy’s story did not add up, investigators couldn’t jump to conclusions, the sheriff added. On Saturday, he said Reinosa confessed when investigators confronted him with the evidence that indicated the shooting was bogus.
“He admitted to cutting the holes in his shirt,” Villanueva said. “We know the ‘what’ and the ‘how.’ We don’t know the ‘why.’”
Reinosa’s motive for faking an assassination attempt remained unknown, but Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said in an interview that the deputy had been struggling in his first year in the field — a probationary training period that all deputies must complete before becoming full-fledged deputies.