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L.A. police officer pleads not guilty to shooting hoax charges

By Michael Martinez, CNN
  • Los Angeles police officer John Stenroos, 30, patrolled a public school
  • He is accused of faking a violent crime by shooting himself
  • The alleged hoax in January led to a 10-hour manhunt
  • Students on eight campuses were in lockdown for those 10 hours

Los Angeles (CNN) -- A Los Angeles police officer charged with staging a victimization hoax by shooting himself outside a public school pleaded not guilty Friday to a six-count indictment, prosecutors said.

Jeff Stenroos, 30, entered the plea before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg after an indictment was returned a day earlier by a grand jury, said spokeswoman Jane Robison of the Los Angeles district attorney's office.

Stenroos is on paid administrative leave from the school district, Robison said in a written statement.

The indictment supersedes a felony complaint, which will be dismissed when Stenroos is scheduled to return to court on May 18 for a pretrial hearing, prosecutors said.

Stenroos allegedly faked his own shooting while on duty at El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, California, on January 19, Robinson said. His injury was discovered by a person who saw him lying on the ground near his open car door, she said.

Stenroos allegedly told other officers that a car burglary suspect shot him once in the chest as he was patrolling the campus perimeter, prosecutors said.

More than 550 law enforcement officers from throughout Southern California responded and conducted a 10-hour search, shutting down an eight-square-mile area in the San Fernando Valley and keeping students on lockdown in eight campuses, authorities said.

The indictment charges the school police officer with five felony counts, including insurance fraud, workers' compensation fraud, preparing a false police report, preparing false documentary evidence and planting false evidence; and with one misdemeanor of falsely reporting an emergency, Deputy District Attorney Paul Nunez said in a statement.

The superseding indictment adds two new counts -- insurance fraud and planting evidence -- and drops a prior charge of perjury, prosecutors said.

The city is seeking $361,289 in restitution from Stenroos, and the Los Angeles Unified School District is seeking $58,000 in medical costs, prosecutors said.

If convicted, Stenroos would face up to five years and eight months in prison, Robison said.

Stenroos, who was treated and released from Northridge Medical Center the day he was shot, is accused of insurance fraud for seeking medical treatment for the injuries, prosecutors said.

The weekend after the shooting, Stenroos checked himself into Henry Mayo Hospital in Santa Clarita for ongoing complaints of pain, prosecutors said.

Police investigators found that Stenroos allegedly created false evidence when he claimed he was shot, authorities said.