Lie shuts down an entire city
The frantic radio call for help came in from rookie cop Angel Reinosa last Wednesday.
"Taking shots from the north of Lancaster helipad," he told officers in the desert city north of Los Angeles.
"I think I'm hit in the right shoulder. (Shots are coming) from an apartment complex to the north. I heard two shots go off. My shirt's ripped to the right.
"I think it's from an apartment window … there are multiple windows open."
Through heavy breathing, Reinosa, 21, demanded help. SWAT teams responded and police blocked several streets around the area where the sheriff's deputy claimed he was being targeted.
New: This is the radio call that LA County Sheriff’s Deputy #AngelReinosa made at the Lancaster Sheriff’s station, Wednesday, causing chaos. @LASDHQ says it was a big lie and he admitted to fabricating everything. He will be fired. Under investigation by prosecution. @NBCLA pic.twitter.com/OhrraNCBZR— Gene Kang (@GeneNBCLA) August 25, 2019
When police arrived, they couldn't find a shooter. They found Reinosa with two holes in the shoulder of his police uniform and rushed him to hospital.
Doctors couldn't find a wound because there wasn't one.
After a manhunt that involved a huge amount of resources and had news crews scurrying to cover an unfolding situation, Reinosa made a confession.
He had made the whole thing up.
So elaborate was his ruse that he had cut two holes in his shirt with a knife.
In a statement released today, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva admitted he was embarrassed by the bizarre sequence of events.
Sheriff Villanueva's Statement Regarding Lancaster Station Shooting Investigation pic.twitter.com/Xfa4jdxBi8— LA County Sheriffs (@LASDHQ) August 25, 2019
"(I am) embarrassed and incredibly disappointed at what this deputy did," he wrote.
"Deputy Angel Reinosa's actions violated the public's trust."
It is not clear what drove Reinosa to make up the story, but he made a full and frank admission when superior officers questioned him about inconsistencies in his story.
The sheriff's office confirmed a criminal investigation was underway, and the officer had been relieved of his duties.
Bureau Captain Kent Wegener had to break the awkward news to the public on Saturday.
"There was no sniper, no shots fired and no gunshot injury sustained to his shoulder ― completely fabricated," he said.
He added Reinosa was uncooperative.
"Much of his statement was self-serving, didn't make a whole lot of sense," he said.
21-year-old patrol trainee Angel Reinosa will face a criminal investigation for lying about being shot in the shoulder on Aug. 21 while standing in the station parking lot, which triggered a massive manhunt and evacuations of an apartment complex. https://t.co/dWECwXNlOr— Pooja Lodhia (@PoojaOnTV) August 25, 2019
Sheriff Villanueva went a step further.
"We are all appalled and disappointed," he said.
"We took the deputy at his word at first. We intend to hold the individual responsible for breaking the law and most importantly for betraying the community.
"We know the what and how, we don't know the why."
More than 100 officers descended on Lancaster last Wednesday. Traffic was diverted around the area and a manhunt lasted hours before officers started to realise that something about Reinosa's story didn't add up.
Capt Wegener said officers tried to stand up the young officer's version of events without success.
"There were several things that were curious … there was no ballistic evidence in the parking lot at all. There were no bullets recovered from the point of impact. There were no cars struck by gunfire.
"There were many things that didn't add up. However, every case is unique."