Ex-school police officer to pay $309,000 in shooting hoax

In exchange for the restitution, Jeffrey Stenroos will be allowed to post bail from Los Angeles County jail pending the outcome of an appeal.
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

Jeffrey Stenroos, the former Los Angeles school police officer who staged his own shooting last year in a bizarre hoax that caused three schools to be locked down and forced the closure of streets across the western San Fernando Valley, will pay the city a lump sum of $309,000 in restitution, authorities said Monday.

In exchange for the restitution, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Richard Kirschner agreed to let Stenroos post bail from Los Angeles County jail pending the outcome of an appeal.

The lion’s share of the payment was to compensate the city of Los Angeles for deploying more than 500 officers, plus traffic management workers. The restitution also will be discussed at a court hearing next month.

“It’s highly unusual to receive such a large amount in a lump sum, but we welcome receiving the money,” said William Carter, chief deputy to City Atty. Carmen Trutanich. He said the money, raised by Stenroos’ friends and family, is expected to be received by the city Wednesday.

Stenroos, 31, was convicted in September of planting false evidence, insurance fraud and other crimes. The sentence came after Stenroos underwent a 90-day psychological evaluation to assess whether he should go to prison or receive probation.

In December, Stenroos was sentenced to five years in county jail, but Kirschner said he would have to serve only two years if he met the terms of his probation, which included completing 400 hours of community service.

The Jan. 19, 2011, hoax triggered a massive and costly hunt for a fictitious assailant, and it brought a swath of the Valley to a standstill for hours.

Stenroos, a seven-year veteran of the school police, was found by a passerby in apparent pain on the sidewalk near El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills. Stenroos told authorities that he had been following up on a report of a car burglar in the area when a man with a ponytail and bomber-style jacket shot him in the chest and fled. Stenroos’ bulletproof vest had apparently saved him from serious injury or death.

Believing that there was a gunman in the area, more than 550 police officers combed the quiet neighborhoods near the school, conducting door-to-door searches and keeping an eight-square-mile area locked down for 10 hours.

Police were suspicious of Stenroos’ account almost from the outset. A spent shell casing found at the scene and bruising on Stenroos’ chest seemed to support his story. But the officer gave investigators conflicting accounts of how the shooting had unfolded.

Authorities said Stenroos told them that only one shot had been fired, then changed his story to say that there had been several. In the days after the shooting, he dodged investigators who wanted to question him further.

During the trial, an LAPD detective testified that Stenroos admitted faking the attack, confessing that he had accidentally shot himself while trying to clean his weapon — an explanation that remains doubtful. Prosecutors and police officials have alleged that Stenroos may have shot himself intentionally to gain attention.

Stenroos’ attorney, Tim Murphy, said at the trial that the officer had been sitting in his office at the school when he accidentally shot himself while cleaning his gun. After realizing he was not seriously injured, Stenroos went about his patrol duties, was overcome by delayed pain from the impact of the bullet and fell to the sidewalk.