LOS ANGELES -- A Los Angeles school police officer concocted a story that he was shot by an attacker last week in an incident that prompted authorities to shut down a large swath of Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley, authorities said Thursday night.
The startling revelation came at a hastily called news conference by Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck, who said detectives became suspicious about the officer's story as they investigated the case.
A terse Beck said Los Angeles Unified School District Officer Jeff Stenroos had been booked on a felony charge of filing a false police report. He declined to elaborate further on the case, which the head of the Los Angeles Police Protective League called an "embarrassment to law enforcement."
Police had said Stenroos was shot in the chest Jan. 19 after he confronted a man as he was attempting to break into vehicles near the eastern boundary of the El Camino Real High School campus.
Stenroos' bulletproof vest absorbed the impact of a single gunshot, which LAPD officials said could easily have killed the officer.
The incident sparked a massive police response that inconvenienced thousands of people for the day as officers blocked roads, locked down schools and refused to let people in or out of a 7-square-mile area.
Authorities arrested Stenroos after he allegedly admitted to fabricating the story, a senior LAPD official close to the investigation told the Los Angeles Times.
The official said investigators were still piecing together how Stenroos had pulled off the hoax.
But the source added that Stenroos' protective vest showed obvious signs of having been struck by a bullet. Stenroos suffered bruising on his chest, raising questions for detectives about whether the officer shot himself accidentally and then fabricated a story or concocted the whole scenario.
The source declined to say whether additional arrests would be made in the case.
"Obviously it's a shocking to us as it is to anyone else," Steven Zipperman, chief of the Los Angeles Unified School District Police Department, said late Thursday.
Zipperman, a former LAPD captain, said his department was cooperating fully with the investigation.
The president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League said Stenroos was a "disgrace."
"The law enforcement community is disgusted," Paul M. Weber said in a statement. "While Mr. Stenroos is a disgrace to the badge, his individual and dangerous actions should not reflect on the hard-working men and women in law enforcement.
More than 300 officers swarmed the west San Fernando Valley in search of the gunman, locking down nine schools and setting up a dragnet they looked for a suspect described as a white man in his 40s, wearing a bomber or black hooded jacket and blue jeans.
While many in the community expressed frustration and anger at the inconvenience caused by the size and length of the operation, LAPD officials defended the decision as necessary to protect the public from a suspect who shot an armed officer in broad daylight. They noted that the incident was especially serious because it involved an attack against a fellow law enforcement officer.
Stenroos was knocked back and hit his head. Coast Guard Auxiliary member Michael Brodey found the downed officer and immediately summoned help using the officer's police radio while providing aid. Brodey did not report seeing a gunman.
Authorities offered a $100,000 reward for information in the case and even distributed a composite of the gunman.
Times staff writer Robert J. Lopez contributed to this report.
(c) 2011, Los Angeles Times.
Visit the Los Angeles Times on the Internet at http://www.latimes.com/.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.