LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles County prosecutors filed four felony charges Thursday against a Los Angeles Unified School District police officer whose tale of being shot by an assailant led to a dragnet that closed seven square miles of the San Fernando Valley.
Jeffrey Stenroos, 30, faces charges including perjury, filing a false insurance claim, preparing false evidence and filing a false police report in connection with the Jan. 19 hoax, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the L.A. County district attorney's office.
He also was charged with a misdemeanor of falsely reporting an emergency. If convicted on all counts, Stenroos faces a maximum sentence of five years in state prison.
"The actions of Officer Stenroos put into motion a series of events that wasted valuable department resources, negatively impacted thousands of schoolchildren and their families, and disrupted the lives of a countless number of people," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said.
Stenroos, who is free on $20,000 bail, was arrested in January in connection with the hoax that brought Woodland Hills and surrounding communities to a standstill amid a lockdown of nine schools that left 9,000 students shut for hours in their classrooms.
The eight-year veteran of the Los Angeles Unified school police force told authorities he had been shot in his bullet-proof vest just outside the El Camino Real High School campus by a white man in his 40s wearing jeans and a bomber jacket.
Police initially believed Stenroos' story because he suffered bruised ribs and there were indications his bulletproof vest had absorbed the impact of a gunshot. But inconsistencies emerged, leading LAPD investigators to question his version of events.
Those suspicions grew, sources said, when Stenroos ducked follow-up interviews that had been requested by detectives, according to sources familiar with the investigation. At one point, Stenroos checked himself into a hospital, complaining of chest pains.
A week after the shooting, Stenroos confessed his original story was a hoax, telling investigators he had accidentally fired his weapon, according to LAPD officials with knowledge of the case. He was arrested on suspicion of filing a false police report, a felony offense.
LAPD officials said it was unclear how Stenroos fabricated the shooting and what, if anything, actually happened at the school.
Sources have said Stenroos' chest had bruising similar to what would be caused by a bullet hitting his protective vest, but they were not sure of the circumstances, including whether any shooting actually occurred next to the school.
In the end, LAPD officials have said they may never know exactly what happened, but the conflicting information relayed by Stenroos to authorities gives prosecutors ample evidence to charge him.
(c) 2011, Los Angeles Times.
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