The sun had yet to rise when a Los Angeles Unified School District police officer unlocked a gate to a station parking lot northeast of downtown. As he pulled into the fenced lot about 5:30 a.m., motion detector lights blinked on, illuminating a man walking through the gate behind him.
He carried a flashlight, gloves, a gun and a two-way radio as he tried breaking into eight patrol cars at the police subdivision near Wilson High School. The officer requested help. Minutes later, police said, Christopher Kish was in handcuffs.
Police said the April 16 arrest yielded not only one of the most active auto thieves in the area but someone with an alarming obsession with stealing law enforcement vehicles and the gear inside them. Kish, authorities said, was an LAPD cadet in the early 1990s.
“He’s a prolific thief of police vehicles,” Hollenbeck Division Capt. Richard Stabile said Wednesday at a weekly meeting of top commanders and area captains to discuss crime statistics. “He was trying to build his own police vehicle. This is a cause for concern.”
Kish, 38, faces eight felony charges of grand theft auto and is being held in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility on a $60,000 bond, records show.
It wasn’t the first time officers arrested Kish on suspicion of stealing police cars. He was convicted in 2013 on similar charges, including operating a chop shop and committing “a street gang act,” and sentenced to prison, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement.
At the crime stat meeting, Assistant Chief Robert Arcos wanted to know if detectives had searched Kish’s house for police equipment. They had not, Stabile said, because Kish provided a false address and officers could not link him to an old address listed in case files.
When officers arrested Kish in April, he had a replica Glock handgun, a two-way radio and a key used by police officers, firefighters and other city personnel to open locks at parks and other facilities, said Det. Stanley Young, a property crimes coordinator for auto theft and burglaries in Hollenbeck.
Police do not know how Kish obtained the city keys.
He also carried a “shaved key” that criminals use to bypass some locks and ignition systems, Young added. Police don’t know whom Kish was allegedly working with on the other end of the two-way radio, he said.
Young said Kish “has an outlandish fetish” for wanting to steal police vehicles or the equipment inside them. In the earlier crimes, Kish told police he was stealing them to build a replica car to target gang members, Young said.
“He knows how we operate,” Young said. “He has a fantasy for taking police cars and equipment.”
Auto thefts jumped 25% in the division in the two weeks before police arrested Kish and another man for unrelated thefts in a separate case, Young said. Those crimes dropped more than 50% in the two weeks after the arrests, he said. Detectives think there’s a connection to the swing but are still working to link Kish and the other man through DNA to the recovered vehicles.
Overall, car thefts were down 12% citywide through mid-April, records show.
The LAPD has hailed its cadet program as a successful partnership between police and city youths. The initiative is designed to help cadets develop life-building skills and bond with officers.
But the program came under scrutiny in 2017, when three cadets stole a pair of LAPD cruisers and raced through the streets of South L.A. before getting into separate crashes. An investigation led to the arrests of seven teens in connection with taking LAPD cars for joyrides and stealing department equipment. Three ex-cadets were subsequently charged.