The number of teens who allegedly took the Los Angeles Police Department for a literal ride after they stole several police cruisers before crashing continues to grow.
Turns out, the group was part of the department's cadet program and allegedly outwitted the LAPD's security systems to steal three police cars. The squad might have also nabbed a bulletproof vest, two tasers, and two police radios, officials say.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said that four more young cadets have been arrested in connection with the joyride investigation, bringing the total to seven.
Beck didn't provide names, but said the teens — ages 15 to 19 — accessed the department's inventory system, and then logged in under the name of a sergeant they knew was on vacation to get access to the vehicles.
The chief also said investigators believe that some of the cadets conducted at least one traffic stop in one of the stolen cars, gave the driver a warning, and then let the person go.
Beck described the entire process as "fairly sophisticated" and said the cadets' "intimate knowledge" of the department system allowed them to "defeat it."
"We have some very sophisticated systems, but the cadets, because of their familiarity with these systems, were able to counter them and gain access not only to the vehicles, but to shield the fact that they were unaccounted for for some amount of time," Beck said.
How long the cadets had the cruisers remains unclear; Beck did not say when the vehicles were checked out, and when asked at a news conference, said "it is possible that one of them has been gone for two weeks."
"We do daily inventories of equipment," Beck said. "It obviously didn't work in this case."
Police eventually got wise to the theft last week when a watch commander noticed one of them was missing. That led police to a security video showing "a young-appearing female" putting gas in a missing vehicle. From there police tracked them down.
According to Beck, when officers first found the cruisers Wednesday, they were "driving in tandem." When a police cruiser with an actual officer behind the wheel started gave chase, they split up.
That briefly gave rise to two chases in which police vehicles were chasing each other. Both stolen vehicles eventually crashed, with one of them injuring another driver.
Photos from the end of the chases showed what appeared to be a wrecked police SUV and four-door car.
Police also recovered a third police vehicle during the investigation, which Beck said may be connected to the cadets.
After capturing the rogue cadets, police also found "two LAPD tasers, two LAPD radios and one bullet-resistant vest," Beck said. He stressed that no guns were ever missing.
The investigation into the cadets remains open, an LAPD spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the LAPD is attempting to make sure a similar incident doesn't happen again.
"I've directed a top-to-bottom review of our cadet program," Beck said, adding later that he wants to make the department's system "even more difficult to access."