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Former sheriff’s deputy who lied about being shot by a sniper is arrested

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva speaks about reported shooting of deputy in August
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva provides an update Aug. 29 on an investigation that found then-Deputy Angel Raul Reinosa had lied about being shot outside the Lancaster sheriff’s station.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who lied about being shot by a sniper, a fabrication that prompted a massive law enforcement response to hunt down the perpetrator, was arrested Thursday.

On Aug. 21, Angel Raul Reinosa, then a 21-year-old deputy assigned to the department’s Lancaster station, radioed into dispatch that while on his way to his car in the station’s parking lot, 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.

Soon, law enforcement officers swarmed the area, using binoculars to scan the building for a possible sniper. The SWAT team and armored vehicles were also at the scene, and the public was told to avoid the area. The mayor of Lancaster quickly blamed the incident on people with mental illnesses who live in the apartment building.

But officials soon began to doubt whether the deputy was telling the truth, and the Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau launched a criminal investigation into Reinosa, who is no longer employed by the department.

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The investigation was then presented to the district attorney’s office for potential prosecution, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

On Thursday, the district attorney’s office filed three criminal charges against Reinosa: filing a false police report, which is a misdemeanor, and two felony counts of insurance fraud related to a workers’ compensation claim. A warrant was also issued for his arrest.

At 2:30 p.m. Thursday, detectives from the Sheriff’s Department’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau served the warrant, arresting Reinosa during a traffic stop in Sylmar. He was taken to L.A. County Jail, where his bail was set at $40,000.

“Two felonies and a misdemeanor are a sad ending to a promising career,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. “We have an ethical standard for every employee, one that I will always maintain in order to earn the public’s trust.”

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Authorities have not released any information about Reinosa’s motive for the deception.

At the time of the incident, he had been with the Sheriff’s Department for only a year. He joined the Lancaster station in May for patrol training.

Sources previously told The Times that the rookie lawman had been investigated in the past for another incident involving dishonesty and that he was set to move into a job in the Sheriff’s Department’s detention system.

The day of the hoax, Reinosa was taken to a hospital, where doctors found no obvious injuries that backed up his claims of having been shot. A small wound to his shoulder and the holes in his shirt were unconvincing. At the scene, investigators grew concerned when they couldn’t find any bullets in the parking lot and found that no resident had called 911 to report hearing gunshots.

Nonetheless, officials initially stuck with the story that Reinosa had been shot and that his vest saved his life.

“He is doing great, thankfully,” Sheriff’s Capt. Todd Weber said at the time. “The wound was minor and he’s been treated and he’s doing well, in high spirits.”

If convicted as charged, Reinosa faces a possible maximum sentence of five years and six months in county jail. He is expected in court Friday.

Times staff writer Joel Rubin contributed to this report.

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