Crime & Justice

LA school cop arrested; shooting story apparently fake

A group of police officers search outside El Camino Real High School in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011.
A group of police officers search outside El Camino Real High School in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

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School police officer Jeff Stenroos, shot last week near a high school campus in Woodland Hills, was arrested last night. The officer’s been charged with making up the story.

Updated at 1:25 p.m. | Permalink

Councilman Zine wants to recover city costs through lawsuit

The City Council voted unanimously today to sue a Los Angeles School Police Department officer accused of fabricating a story about being shot by a burglary suspect in Woodland Hills.

Councilman Dennis Zine, who proposed the lawsuit, said Officer Jeffrey Stenroos "not only wasted precious city resources and inconvenienced tens of thousands of people, but he also abused the trust the public places in their police force and shamed the professional standards upheld by law enforcement agencies."

Zine, a former police officer, said he wants to recover money spent by the city in searching for a nonexistent suspect.

"In my entire 43-year career in law enforcement, I have never witnessed such a reckless stunt and I am appalled by the actions of this uniformed officer," he said.

"To fabricate this event is unconscionable and I will be using every tool I have available to me to make sure the city is paid its due restitution," he added.

Stenroos, 30, was arrested at 6:30 p.m. Thursday by the LAPD's Robbery- Homicide Division on suspicion of felony filing a false police report, according to inmate records. He was booked at 10:04 p.m. and released on $20,000 bail at 11:49 p.m.

The officer's report of being shot in the chest Jan. 19 near El Camino Real High School sparked a massive manhunt involving 350 police officers and sheriff's deputies in Woodland Hills, and the lockdown of nine schools in the area that affected thousands of students, their parents and residents. Thousands of students were restricted to their classrooms, with little food and no bathroom breaks for as many as five or six hours.

At Zine's urging last week, the City Council, three police organizations, and the founder of the 99 Cents Only store put up a $100,000 reward for information on the gunman that Stenroos had described.

- KPCC wire services

Updated at 12:19 p.m. | Permalink

LAPD Chief Beck furious over alleged hoax; officer was not attacked

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck Friday said he was “furious” at a school police officer who allegedly faked his own shooting last week.
Beck said L.A. School Police Officer Jeffrey Stenroos was arrested last night for filing a false report. Stenroos said he was shot outside El Camino Real High School. He was released on bail just before midnight.
The police chief said “some inconsistencies emerged early on” about Stenroos’s story that he was shot in the chest by someone breaking into cars outside the school in the Western San Fernando Valley. The manhunt for a suspect forced thousands of students to remain on several areas campuses into the evening, and caused massive traffic jams in the area.
“I think that he caused an immense amount of pain to many members of the city of Los Angeles.” The chief said estimates run as high as $500,000 for the amount of police and other public resources devoted to the manhunt and keeping children in their classrooms.

Beck offered few details about what investigators believe happened – whether Stenroos was shot at the scene or elsewhere, or whether he shot himself, or whether he was even shot.
Stenroos had said he was saved by a bulletproof vest. Beck would only say that the vest had damage “consistent with a round being fired.” He also said Stenroos was treated for injuries that “could be associated” with being hit in the chest by a bullet while wearing a bulletproof vest.
“The when and the where and the how – that has yet to be determined.”
The chief said Stenroos carried a .45 caliber gun in his holster. He was shot with a nine millimeter. Officers sometimes carry a second weapon.
Beck said one thing is for sure: no one attacked Officer Stenroos.
“There is no... gunman on the loose.”

- Frank Stoltze

Updated at 6:59 a.m. | Permalink

School police officer Jeff Stenroos claimed he spotted a guy trying to break into cars near El Camino Real High School; he said that guy pulled a gun and shot him in his bulletproof vest.

It’s odd that someone committing a minor crime like breaking into cars would try to escape arrest by committing a serious crime like trying to kill a police officer. But maybe it did happen – or maybe not.

The LAPD arrested Stenroos last night on suspicion of filing a false police report. Police Chief Charlie Beck did not say if Stenroos accidentally shot himself – but he did say there is “no outstanding suspect” in the case.

The shooting report led to lockdowns at nine L.A. schools. The chaotic after-school pickup took hours – and angered parents. It also prompted the L.A. Police Protective League to offer a $100,000 reward for the shooter. The police officers union took it back last night, saying it’s “disgusted” to learn Stenroos might have made it all up.

- Nick Roman

KTLA video via the L.A. Times

Updated at 6:53 a.m. | Permalink

LAUSD superintendent plans to fire officer behind alleged hoax

A Los Angeles school police officer who said he was shot in the chest last week by a car burglar was arrested last night. L.A. police booked Jeffrey Stenroos on a charge of filing a false police report. LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines says he plans to fire the officer.

"Let me tell you – he has violated the trust of this community," says Cortines. "And I respect due process, but literally, he has violated the trust of thousands of people, and I will take action."

"I'm embarrassed that one of our employees would play this kind of hoax on people," says Cortines. "And I just want to apologize that one of our employees would play this kind of hoax. But I also want to say that this individual is not reflective of the men and women in blue that protect our students and staff every day. I've worked with them for three years and I've seen them really step up to the plate. And so this is unfortunate that this individual would do something like this, that would shadow all of our people that do such a good job."

Cortines says he knows how serious this incident was taken. "I was there in the Valley all of the time. I know how serious students, and parents, and over 300 law enforcement people from five different agencies, how serious this was. Not only for the safety of our students, for the safety of the people in the community."

Cortines says he doesn't know of anything that might have led to this and referred KPCC to the LAPD for questions about the incident.

- Steve Julian & Mike Roe

Audio: L.A. Unified school superintendent Ray Cortines told KPCC this morning how the news hit him.

More from the Associated Press:

Updated at 11:14 a.m. | Permalink

LA school officer to be fired over shooting hoax

A school police officer will be fired for an alleged shooting hoax that touched off one of the largest local manhunts in recent memory and forced thousands of students to remain in their classrooms for hours, the head of the Los Angeles Unified School District announced Friday.

Superintendent Ramon Cortines said he has directed the school police chief and the district's lawyer to immediately relieve Jeff Stenroos of duty and begin the process of dismissing him.

"I would like to apologize to the public for the hoax that was perpetrated by a rogue officer," Cortines said in a statement.

"Thousands of people were inconvenienced by the actions of this one man," Stenroos said. "I want to again apologize to everyone who was alarmed, who worked long hours and who were adversely affected by his actions."

Cortines said the alleged actions of the eight-year veteran do not reflect the integrity of all school police.

Law enforcement officials say Stenroos was lying when he said a gunman shot him in the chest as he patrolled near a San Fernando Valley high school Jan. 19. He was arrested Thursday night on suspicion of filing a false police report and was released on $20,000 bail shortly before midnight. The allegation is a felony.

"The current state of the investigation refutes Stenroos' initial account of the incident and we are now certain that there is no outstanding suspect in this shooting," city Police Chief Charlie Beck said at a news conference Thursday night.

A law enforcement official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak about the case, said Stenroos was mishandling a firearm when he was shot.

The gunshot hit Stenroos in his bulletproof vest and authorities said that protection saved his life. He was treated for minor injuries and released from the hospital later that night.

Stenroos, 30, has not spoken publicly since the shooting. A call left for a Jeff Stenroos in Santa Clarita was not returned.

Steven K. Zipperman, chief of the 340-officer Los Angeles School Police Department, has said Stenroos is an eight-year veteran of the department.

Paul Weber, president of the union representing Los Angeles Police Department officers, said he was "disgusted" to hear that Stenroos filed a false report.

Beck defended the aggressive police response to the shooting, which occurred one day after a gun accidentally fired in a student's backpack at another Los Angeles high school, wounding two students.

"We go where these investigations take us," he said. "Finding the truth and obtaining some form of justice is what we're about."

The day of the shooting, an ambulance carrying Stenroos sped to a hospital with a motorcycle escort, nine schools with about 9,000 students were locked down as more than 350 police officers, sheriff's deputies and California Highway Patrol officers scoured 7 square miles of the affluent Woodland Hills neighborhood around El Camino Real High School for a gunman described as in his 40s with long brown hair.

Students were kept in their classrooms for hours without access to food or bathrooms, prompting anger and frustration from parents.

Later, a citizen was hailed as a good Samaritan for using the officer's radio to call for help and authorities mustered $100,000 in reward money for information leading to the shooter's arrest.

"His lies set into motion the largest search for a suspect in recent history and inconvenienced thousands of people for hours," the police union president said. "If these allegations are proven true, Mr. Stenroos is now where he belongs, behind bars."

Associated Press writers Raquel Maria Dillon and Robert Jablon contributed to this report.

© 2011 The Associated Press.