The alleged ringleader told other cadets he had special permission to drive the cars, according to the warrant. Another cadet said he was given access to a vehicle by the officer who ran the equipment room at the station, but did not mention Cain by name.
The LAPD has said Cain was complicit in the thefts but has declined to offer details. His attorney, Bill Seki, has denied his client had any knowledge of the thefts.
One cadet told detectives that some members of the group used the vehicles to stop drivers in Huntington Park and Inglewood, according to the warrant. During one of the stops, the cadets pulled over a member of the El Segundo Police Department's cadet program. Two of the cadets wore modified uniforms meant to resemble the darker shade of blue worn by LAPD officers, the warrant said.
An LAPD officer told detectives she noticed a person she later believed to be a cadet stopping another driver on June 13, according to the warrant. The traffic stop seemed "odd," she recalled, because one of the police cars was stopped in front of the vehicle that had been pulled over. But the car pulled away before she got a closer look, she said.
Long, the LAPD captain, said that after the June 14 car chase, other officers reported similar incidents in which they thought they had seen cadets driving department vehicles.
The cadets' carelessness may have played a role in their arrests. After the cars were discovered missing, the warrant said, LAPD investigators traveled to the South L.A. home of one of the teens, hoping to interview her.
Not long after they arrived, two vehicles carrying cadets pulled up, according to the warrant. The car chase started soon after.
Frank and Long said the investigation, which included nearly 100 interviews and required half a dozen detectives to scour social media and cellphone records, revealed Cain was the only officer who knew about the thefts before the car chase. No other LAPD officers have been accused of criminal wrongdoing, they said.
Given the length of the time the cadets had access to LAPD vehicles and equipment, Long said the department wanted to make sure the teens had not done anything beyond what they were already accused of.
"We started this as 'OK, what's the worst they could have done with what they had available to them?'" Long said. "We're back down to just the basic facts of taking the police cars and no other serious crimes."
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