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LAUSD officer pleads not guilty to faking his own shooting

Jeffrey Stenroos faces five felony charges in the January incident that triggered a massive manhunt and lockdown in Woodland Hills. The city and schools want him to pay restitution.

May 14, 2011|By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
  • The city and schools want Jeffrey Stenroos, who allegedly faked his own shooting, to pay back $400,000 spent on the January lockdown and manhunt.
The city and schools want Jeffrey Stenroos, who allegedly faked his own…

A Los Angeles Unified school police officer charged with faking his own shooting, triggering a massive manhunt and schools lockdown, pleaded not guilty Friday after a six-count grand jury indictment was unsealed.

Jeffrey Stenroos, 30, answered to charges handed down Thursday in the indictment, including allegations that he planted evidence. The indictment supersedes existing charges and avoids the need for a preliminary hearing.

The lockdown and manhunt in January cordoned off much of Woodland Hills and cost the city and schools more than $400,000. They want the officer to pay back the money.

The indictment includes two new charges of insurance fraud and planting evidence but does not include the prior charge of perjury. Prosecutors said Stenroos helped construct a fake sketch of a suspect.

The veteran school police officer is charged with five felony counts, including insurance fraud, workers' compensation fraud, preparing a false police report, preparing false documentary evidence and planting false evidence, and one misdemeanor of falsely reporting an emergency.

If Stenroos is convicted, he could face five years and eight months in prison.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Paul Nunez told Judge Patricia Schnegg that the city is seeking $361,289 in restitution, and the Los Angeles Unified School District is seeking $58,000 in medical costs. The district is still determining the cost of keeping students in lockdown at eight campuses for up to 10 hours, prosecutors said.

Authorities said Stenroos faked the Jan. 19 shooting while on duty near El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills. A good Samaritan spotted Stenroos lying on the ground near his open car door and called for help.

Stenroos, who was wearing a bullet-proof vest, told fellow officers a car-burglary suspect shot him once in the chest as he was patrolling the campus perimeter, officials said. More than 550 law enforcement officers from throughout Southern California responded and conducted a 10-hour search, shutting down an 8-square-mile area. Stenroos was treated and released that day from Northridge Medical Center.

The indictment charges Stenroos with insurance fraud for seeking medical treatment for injuries he never sustained, said Jane Robison, a district attorney's spokeswoman.

The following weekend, Stenroos checked himself into Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in the Santa Clarita Valley for ongoing complaints of pain, she added. An LAPD investigation determined there was no shooting at the school as Stenroos first described and that he created false evidence when he claimed he was shot.

Schnegg set his bail at $50,000. Stenroos, who is on paid administrative leave from the district, is scheduled to return to Van Nuys Superior Court on Wednesday.

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