Beck: School Officer's Story Had "Inconsistencies"

Law enforcement officials said they're "disgusted"

By Jack Noyes and Jonathan Lloyd
|  Friday, Jan 28, 2011  |  Updated 6:25 PM PDT
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Chief <a title=Charlie Beck says the case, which the LAPD now calls a hoax, probably cost LA between $400,000 and $500,000." />

Chief Charlie Beck says the case, which the LAPD now calls a hoax, probably cost LA between $400,000 and $500,000.

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An officer's report of being shot near a school last week might have been a hoax, according to the LAPD.

The shooting report from LAUSD Officer Jeff Stenroos triggered a manhunt that involved 350 officers and deputies, and a multi-school lockdown that affected thousands of students for about six hours.

"We were stuck in class for six hours because nothing happened?" a student said early Friday.

There was even a sketch of the "gunman," and several people were questioned in connection with the case.

Late Thursday, the LAPD announced that it was all triggered by a hoax.

"There were some inconsistencies that emerged early on," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Friday. "It was just recently that we were able to get accurate information.

"Evidence still needs to be tested and interviews conducted. Up until just several days ago, we believed this was assault on a police officer. These things will take time to come out."

Beck said he could not immediately provide details about the inconsistencies. He said a "combination of things" caused investigators to become skeptical.

He said there is evidence that a round from a gun was expended, but he could not say when and where that happened.

"There is an expended cartridge. There is damage to the vest that is consistent with a round being fired. But the where, the when, the how -- that's yet to be determined," Beck added.

As for the cost of the response to the officer's report?

"We speculate the total cost to all of the people of LA either via the LA Unified School District, the Los Angeles Police Department or fire department response, somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000," Beck said.

Stenroos was free Friday on $20,000 bail.

On Thursday night, Beck told a packed room of reporters that Stenroos had been taken into custody.  Stenroos was arrested on suspicion of filing a false police report after claiming to be shot last week in Woodland Hills in connection with his report that a burglary suspect shot him.

City Council Votes to Sue

The City Council voted unanimously Friday to sue Stenroos. 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."

"He needs to be fired, prosecuted, and whatever assets he has, those need to be turned over to recoup the costs of this hoax that he created," Zine said.

The LA police union said Stenroos filed a false police report that triggered several school lockdowns and a massive hours-long manhunt. The Los Angeles Police Protective League released the following statement:

    The Law enforcement community is disgusted upon learning that Mr. Stenroos filed a false police report and apparently may have shot himself.  His lies set into motion the largest search for a suspect in recent history and inconvenienced thousands of people for hours.  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. On behalf of all in law enforcement, we want to apologize to the public that a police officer would intentionally betray all of our trust.  If these allegations are proven true, Mr. Stenroos is now where he belongs, behind bars.

Superintendent Ramon Cortines also expressed dismay:

    Thousands of people were inconvenienced by the actions of this one man. I want to again apologize to everyone who was alarmed, who worked long hours and who were adversely affected by his actions:  especially law enforcement, first responders, the medical team and hospital staff and of course, parents, teachers, students and residents of the area near El Camino Real High School.

Case Background

It was Jan. 19 when nine Los Angeles Unified School District campuses in Woodland Hills were "locked down" by school officials as police scoured a huge search area of Woodland Hills looking for a man suspected of shooting Officer Strenroos in the chest. 

Stenroos told police at about 11:40 a.m. that day he was confronted by a man who was allegedly trying to break into vehicles in the 5500 block of Manton Avenue and the man shot Stenroos once in the chest, police said.

A Good Samaritan was credited with helping Stenroos radio for help. Police said Michael Brodey was driving by the location of the shooting and saw Officer Stenroos on the ground. He used Stenroos' police radio to call in the shooting.

Everyone was told at the time that Stenroos was okay after being treated at a nearby hospital.  He had been wearing a bullet-proof vest when he was shot.

Thousands of school children and their parents were inconvienced by the lockdowns. Children went hungry and were forced to relieve themselves in trash cans styled as toilets.

In the days that followed the report, law enforcement, city and other officials  pledged $100,000 in reward money for information leading to an arrest and  conviction of whoever shot Stenroos.

The Los Angeles School Police Department and Los Angeles Police Department are separate police departments, although they sometimes share resources.

 


 

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