BREAKING Caught on video: Alleged car thieves break into one Cal State LA student’s car, drive off in another’s


Courtesy of Edwin Estrada and collage by Cornell Chuaseco

Collage of photos obtained from Edwin Estrada showing the alleged car thief in action, Estrada’s crime report sheet and his car getting towed after the fact.

A student caught a possible car theft in progress on campus and managed to get the person who broke into his car during broad daylight on video.

Natural science major Edwin Estrada walked to his car right after 3 p.m. yesterday to find that his car, a 2014 black Kia Optima, was blocked in by another Kia Optima that was white. 

“Since my back windows are tinted I couldn’t really see if someone was inside my car. All I saw were my doors just open,” Estrada told the UT. “Then, I got closer and started recording when I saw what was happening.” 

Although Estrada’s first instinct was to tackle the guy allegedly attempting to steal his car, he decided to record the whole thing on his phone instead, getting the assailant’s face and the getaway cars’ license plate. Estrada feared for his safety as the man who allegedly broke into his car had a piece of metal in his hand.

There was another man standing behind Estrada as well, leaving him with fears of being “jumped.” 

They drove off in what Estrada said is a white Kia Optima. Estrada believes the two men were trying to steal his car, given the recent spike in car thefts on campus.

While car thefts on campus have decreased in recent years, going down from nine in 2018 to four in 2020, according to the 2021 Annual Security Report, this semester has seen at least four car thefts already.

“They basically broke into my car trying to steal it,” Estrada alleged. “They did damage to the ignition of my car so now it won’t start and the key slot on the driver’s side door is broken.” 

After Estrada filed a police report with campus police, they checked his car. They also said they would check the cameras to find the people who did it. Estrada was given a crime report receipt with a report number, the type of offense it was, the officer’s name and an ID number. Estrada was not given a copy of the police report. 

“Everything is still under investigation but they will let me know whenever they find anything out,” Estrada said.

Now, Estrada is left with no mode of transportation to get to school and lives 45 minutes away from campus but plans to get his car fixed today. 

“I feel like everyone always has that fear of having something that’s yours get stolen, but it was weird how my car was almost stolen at a place that I thought was safe with security and cameras,” Estrada said.

Political science major Kamille Branscomb went on social media only to find that her car had been stolen and was used in the alleged attempted theft of Estrada’s car, first shown in a post by CSULA Truth and in video footage later obtained by the UT from Estrada. 

“I recognized my car and I looked for a picture of my license plate in my camera roll to make sure it was my car and the license plates matched,” Branscomb said. 

Her Kia Optima was parked in the residential dorm parking next to LACHSA and doesn’t know where her car is now. 

“I tried to track it on Apple Maps since my phone was connected to my car through Bluetooth, but my phone has been disconnected from the car and I can’t track it anymore,” Branscomb said. 

Right away, Branscomb said she filed a police report with campus police. She is currently back home about 30 minutes away from Cal State LA, trying to figure out her next steps in regards to transportation to school and work. 

“The police told me that my car is in their statewide stolen car system and that if anyone finds my car within the state and reports it, then I will be notified,” she said. “They also said that Kias are being targeted right now because they’re easy to get into with a  screwdriver, and it only takes a couple of seconds.” 

Campus police also mentioned that thieves are looking for catalytic converters inside the car since they’re very valuable

“I have never felt unsafe on campus, so I wasn’t expecting my car to get stolen,” Branscomb said. “However, I have heard of other people’s cars getting stolen in other parking lots, but I didn’t think it would happen at the dorms.” 

After the UT reached out to campus police multiple times yesterday and today on this situation and other situations alike, reporter Priscilla Caballero was directed to Chief Larry Bohannon.

“We’re also increasing our presence in the lots. Right now, we’re going to use our Eagle Patrol to also supplement parking lots. Generally, Eagle Patrol would focus on the inner campus because that’s where a lot of our requests are generated, but we’re going to also use them now to increase our presence in the parking lots,” Bohannon said.

According to a University Department of Public Safety email sent out today, the suspect is described as a “male, Latino, 18-25 years, approximately 5’8’’, wearing a white T-shirt with a black long-sleeve undershirt, light-colored pants, and an LA Kings baseball cap. The suspect also has a green-colored tattoo on his right wrist and hand.”

If you have any information regarding this crime, please contact the Department of Public Safety on-duty Watch Commander at 323-343-3700 or call the Victim/Witness Assistance Line, available 24-hours a day, at 323-343-3756.

The Cal State LA’s Communications and Public Affairs office responded to the UT by referring to the Public Safety announcement and added that members of their CARE Team are reaching out to the impacted students to support them.

Priscilla Caballero contributed to this story.