By Robert Jablon
Ventura County Star
LOS ANGELES — A school police officer who sparked a school lockdown and a massive manhunt after he claimed to have been shot while on patrol was convicted Monday of fraud and other offenses for making the whole thing up.
In a nonjury trial, a judge found Officer Jeff Stenroos guilty of felony counts of insurance fraud, workers' compensation fraud, preparing false documentary evidence and planting false evidence.
Officials were quick to condemn Stenroos, who radioed colleagues Jan. 19 to say a ponytailed burglary suspect had shot him in his bulletproof vest.
'Stenroos is a disgrace to the Los Angeles School Police Department and this district,' Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy said in a statement.
Stenroos was placed on paid administrative leave after the supposed shooting. Officials will now move to fire him.
The 31-year-old officer was ordered detained without bail Monday and was led from the courtroom in handcuffs.
Stenroos also was found guilty of one misdemeanor count of falsely reporting an emergency. He could face up to five years in prison.
In his closing arguments, Deputy District Attorney Paul Nunez contended Stenroos fired a bullet into his own protective vest, planted a shell casing, and repeat edly gave false accounts about what happened even from his hospital bed. The prosecutor said Stenroos wanted to win fame and go on medical leave.
Prosecutors played videotaped snippets of a twohour interview with police more than a week after the incident. In it, Stenroos describes to detectives the pain of being shot. At the end of the interview, however, he recants and admits to fabricating his story.
His initial report prompted the lockdown of 9,000 students at area middle, elementary and high schools for up to 10 hours while police delayed traffic and searched for a suspect across an 8-square-mile area in the San Fernando Valley.
One of Stenroos' attorneys, Dennis Elber, argued his client was guilty of just one count - misdemeanor false reporting of an emergency. Elber said there was either no evidence to support the more serious charges, or those laws did not apply in this case.
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