Ex-Santa Clara County deputy pleads guilty to faking a drive-by shooting

A former Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy pleaded guilty Tuesday to staging a 2020 drive-by shooting incident in which he claimed to have been targeted and shot near Morgan Hill.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney's office stated that Sukhdeep Gill had not, in fact, been shot four years ago, contradicting the tale he spun for authorities about a single bullet fired from a passing car precisely striking his body-worn camera. He was charged in 2021 with felony vandalism, as well as a misdemeanor count of making a false police report.

On Tuesday, Gill accepted a plea deal, admitting to misdemeanor charges of vandalism and falsely reporting a crime and agreeing to perform 150 hours of community service.

The agreement also requires Gill to pay restitution and surrender his certification to the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, barring him from serving as a peace officer in California.

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Gill began his career with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department in 2016.

At 10:32 p.m. on Jan. 31, 2020, Gill pressed an emergency broadcast button on his radio and exclaimed, “Shots fired! Shots fired!” This prompted officers to respond from the sheriff’s office as well as the San Jose, Morgan Hill and Gilroy police departments.

Gill informed officers at the scene that, while heading back to his patrol car after urinating on the side of the road, a silver sedan with its headlights off had fired multiple shots at him, piercing his body camera and armor.

The former deputy said he fired two shots toward the suspect vehicle, which fled the scene. Police labeled the incident as a "premeditated attempted murder."

Detectives from Gill’s own agency investigated the purported drive-by and determined it hadn’t happened the way he had told it, the Sheriff’s Office said in 2021. The investigation revealed evidence, including ballistics, that exposed serious discrepancies in Gill’s account of the drive-by.

“I have gone to officers’ funerals after they are shot,” Dist. Atty. Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “I hope to never hear again about an officer faking being shot. It’s outrageous, diverts public resources, and dishonors officers who put their lives on the line to protect us.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.