A sheriff’s deputy who allegedly faked being shot by a sniper and was previously investigated for dishonesty by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials has been fired.
Angel Reinosa, a probationary employee who had been with the Sheriff’s Department for about a year, became the subject of a criminal investigation last week after he said he was shot by a sniper outside the sheriff’s Lancaster Station — a claim that officials said he later admitted was untrue.
Saying he had taken “swift administrative action in the matter,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced at a news conference Wednesday that Reinosa was no longer employed by the department or the county. Villanueva declined to elaborate on the deputy’s departure.
“I am disappointed that this incident occurred and upset that one member’s actions has reflected negatively on a department that has a history of service and heroism,” he said.
Reinosa, 21, initially told investigators that 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.
When Villanueva visited Reinosa at the hospital, the deputy had what appeared to be a contusion on his shoulder that was red and covered with a bandage. The sheriff said that it did not appear to be a bullet wound and the situation “seemed odd.”
Still, the incident sparked a massive response from law enforcement officials, who spent days searching for a phantom gunman. It wasn’t long before Reinosa’s story unraveled, officials said.
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, multiple sheriff’s officials and others with knowledge of the investigation told The Times.
On his own radio call seeking help, sources say Reinosa sounded too calm for someone who had just been shot, let alone a rookie deputy.
By nightfall, even as a massive manhunt for his purported attacker continued, investigators began scrutinizing Reinosa’s story. Those early suspicions were borne out Saturday night, when investigators announced Reinosa had concocted the shooting.
Villanueva said the department was “appalled and disappointed.” Reinosa’s motive for allegedly faking an assassination attempt remains unknown.
“He made a life-altering decision and, unfortunately, he has to live with it,” Villanueva said. “This black eye is on the individual himself. It’s not a reflection of the department or any member of the department outside of his own individual actions.”
The department plans to submit the results of its criminal investigation to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. Prosecutors ultimately will determine whether Reinosa will face criminal charges.
Sheriff’s Capt. Kent Wegener said the department is still waiting for forensic evidence, and is looking into how many hours officers spent searching for a suspect and the deployment of other resources to understand the full impact of the false report.
Law enforcement sources speaking on the condition of anonymity said detectives also are investigating whether Reinosa committed perjury, filed a false police report or falsely reported a work injury for financial gain.
Sources told The Times that Reinosa had been investigated in the past in another incident involving allegations of dishonesty documented by his supervisors. The investigation led to discipline, but no recommendation that he be fired.
Reinosa had been preparing to move into a job in the sheriff’s detention system, sources said.
Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said in an interview that Reinosa had been struggling in his first year in the field — a probationary training period that all sworn personnel must complete before becoming full-fledged deputies.
“He should have been fired and he should be charged,” Parris said Wednesday. “Everyone in Lancaster and the Sheriff’s Department wants him held accountable.”