LAPD detectives skeptical that officer accused of shooting hoax fired gun accidentally
LAPD detectives are skeptical of Los Angeles School Police Officer Jeffrey Stenroos' claims that he accidentally shot himself and then blamed the incident on a fake assailant, sources have told the Los Angeles Times.
One source said the bruising on Stenroos' chest -- from where a bullet apparently hit his protective vest -- appears to be inconsistent with a typical gunshot at close range. Though the officer has said the gun went off outside El Camino Real High School, detectives are not convinced, the sources said.Stenroos was booked last week on suspicion of making a false police report in connection with the alleged hoax that shut down seven square miles of the west San Fernando Valley. Police spent days searching for a parolee whom they believed shot the officer. Then suspicion began to fall on Stenroos.
The law-enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was open, said Stenroos had given several contradictory accounts of exactly what happened. Detectives, they said, are still trying to determine whether the shooting was an accident or in some way connected to Stenroos' professional or personal life.
"Right now, we have more questions than answers," said a senior LAPD official about the status of the investigation.
Investigators said Stenroos' behavior in the days after the shooting made them suspicious. Repeatedly, they tried to arrange a meeting with Stenroos; they said they hadn't wanted to press him too hard while he was in the hospital and now needed to conduct a follow-up interview. Stenroos, according to the sources, seemed to be avoiding them.
Days after the incident, Stenroos checked himself into Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, complaining of chest pains.
Source said that on Thursday he confessed his original story was a hoax. They said his chest had bruising similar to what would be caused by a bullet hitting his protective vest, but they're not sure of the circumstances -- including whether any shooting actually occurred next to the school.
-- Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton
Photo: Los Angeles School Police officer Jeffrey Stenroos. Credit: Los Angeles Unified School District