Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Angel Reinosa fabricated a claim that he was shot Wednesday afternoon while standing in the parking lot of the Lancaster Sheriff's station, department officials announced Saturday night.
Reinosa confessed to detectives during a follow up interview Saturday, was relieved of duty and will likely face criminal charges.
"Angel Reinosa admitted that he was not shot at from the apartment complex area as he previously claimed," Capt. Kent Wegener said during a Saturday night news conference. "He also told investigators that he had caused the holes in his uniform shirt by cutting it with a knife."
Wegener added, "There was no sniper, no shots fired and no gunshot injury sustained to his shoulder -- completely fabricated."
Investigators grew suspicious of the story as soon as Reinosa arrived at an emergency room and it was apparent he had no visible injuries, despite holes in his uniform shirt, several law enforcement sources told NBCLA.
Reinosa's undershirt was intact, and the sources said the holes in the uniform appeared to have been made with a knife, which Reinosa eventually admitted he'd done.
"This was not adding up," said one source familiar with the investigation and the painstaking, room-by-room search of an adjacent 4-story apartment building from which the trainee deputy claimed the shots were fired from an open window.
The sources said Reinosa had recently received unfavorable performance reviews while in training.
Dozens of deputies spent hours searching for the reported attacker, repeatedly described by Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris as a "sniper," but no one was found, the Sheriff's Department confirmed in a Twitter message early Thursday.
Two people briefly detained during the search for being "uncooperative" were released and had nothing to do with the incident, the Sheriff's Department said.
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Reinosa reported he'd been shot while standing in the station parking lot at 2:48 p.m. Wednesday. He made the initial report over the department's two-way radio system.
"I'm taking shots from the north of the Lancaster helipad," Reinosa said, according to a recording of the dispatch radio traffic obtained by NBCLA. "I think I'm hit in the right shoulder, it might have gone through, but from the apartment complex to the north, I [unintelligible] two shots go off, my shirt’s ripped alright, if I can set, if I can set up a containment."
"I think it's from the apartment windows. There's multiple windows open. I [unintelligible] know where the shots came from," Reinosa broadcast seconds later.
An LASD spokesperson initially said other deputies were fired at, but later in the day officials said Reinosa was the only person involved.
"Deputies at the location evacuated him," Lancaster station Capt. Todd Weber told reporters of Reinosa's rescue from the parking lot. "He is doing great, has a minor wound, is in high spirits, and should make a full recovery. Very lucky."
The dramatic turn Saturday recalls the January 19, 2011 case of former Los Angeles school police officer Jeffrey Stenroos, who staged his own shooting triggered a massive and expensive manhunt for a fictitious car burglar that for hours locked down a large area of the West San Fernando Valley.
That story fell apart when police said Stenroos gave investigators conflicting accounts of how the shooting had unfolded and dodged investigators who sought to ask to ask him follow-up questions before eventually confessing. The officer eventually paid the city over $300,000 in restitution.