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Officer accused of shooting hoax says gun accidentally went off

February 1, 2011 |  6:28 am

Stenroos Los Angeles School Police Officer Jeffrey Stenroos Los Angeles School Police Officer Jeffrey Stenroos, accused of falsely claiming that he was shot by an assailant outside El Camino Real High School, has told investigators that he accidentally fired his gun, sources have told the Los Angeles Times.

But detectives are continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the case.

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 they believed shot the officers. 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 his professional or personal life.

Detectives continue to examine physical evidence from the scene of the reported shooting Jan. 19 just east of El Camino Real campus. They also are conducting interviews with Stenroos' colleagues and examining his background for any possible reasons that the eight-year school police veteran might have misled authorities.

"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.


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-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Los Angeles School Police Officer Jeffrey Stenroos. Credit: Los Angeles Unified School District