(Reuters) – A Southern California sheriff’s deputy made up a story that a sniper shot him in the shoulder, an incident that sent police SWAT teams hunting for the gunman, authorities said.
The deputy, Angel Reinosa, 21, admitted to investigators he was not shot as he walked to his car on Wednesday outside the sheriff’s department office in Lancaster City, California, police said. Reinosa had earlier said he was saved by the ballistic vest he was wearing.
“There was no sniper, no shots fired and no gunshot injury sustained,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Captain Kent Wegener told reporters at a news conference late on Saturday. “Completely fabricated.”
Reinosa did not tell investigators why he lied, but he admitted cutting a hole in his uniform using a knife, Wegener said.
The deputy’s false claim followed three mass shootings in the United States this month, and several arrests of people threatening mass shootings.
Reinosa’s report had put the city of some 170,000 residents on high alert as heavily armed police hunted for the alleged sniper, who was believed to have opened fire from a nearby apartment complex that caters to the mentally ill.
Once the sheriff’s department has completed its investigation, the district attorney’s office could decide whether to file charges, Wegener said.
Lancaster City is about 70 miles (112 km) north of Los Angeles.
Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker