School cop faces up to five years in prison for shooting hoax
The Los Angeles school police officer found guilty of staging his own shooting in a hoax that triggered a massive manhunt in the west San Fernando Valley could face up to five years in state prison or probation when he is sentenced Wednesday morning.
In a non-jury trial in September, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Richard N. Kirschner convicted Jeffrey Stenroos, 31, of several felonies and a misdemeanor charge including planting false evidence, insurance fraud and workers' compensation fraud.
Stenroos also was ordered to be sent to state prison for a 90-day psychological evaluation to assess what kind of sentence he should receive.
The judge may also consider what restitution Stenroos should pay. City officials are seeking more than $350,000 from Stenroos to cover the costs of the operation. The school district is seeking to recover $58,000 in medical costs.
Stenroos' attorney, Tim Murphy, acknowledged that his client made "an incredibly stupid mistake" by lying about the shooting. But he said prosecutors had failed to prove that Stenroos had been acting intentionally and with intent to commit fraud.
Stenroos, with nearly eight years on the force, spun an elaborate tale about being shot in the chest outside Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills by a man with a ponytail and bomber-style jacket. The bullet was absorbed by his bullet-proof vest.
The report touched off a massive response by more than 550 police officers across an eight-mile area that included a lockdown at nine schools.
Boosting the credence of story, a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary found Stenroos unconscious on the sidewalk and made the initial radio call to police. Investigators also found a spent shell casing at the scene and there was bruising on Stenroos' chest from an apparent gunshot.
But the story quickly began to unravel as Stenroos gave police conflicting accounts of how the shooting had unfolded. At one point he said only one shot was fired, but then claimed several bullets were fired. And that conflicted with witnesses in the neighborhood who did not report hearings shots.
He also tried to duck follow-up questions from LAPD robbery-homicide investigators who said Stenroos eventually admitted to faking the attack, confessing that he had accidentally shot himself while trying to clean his weapon.
Authorities acknowledged that what actually transpired that day and the exact reasons why Stenroos concocted the story may never be known.
— Andrew Blankstein (Twitter/anblanx)
Photo: Jeffrey Stenroos. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times