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Thief was caught between guards, deputies

O.C. lawmen met the robber as he made his escape from a mall.

March 11, 2008|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

The 27-year-old man who pulled off a daytime jewelry store robbery Sunday at a crowded Mission Viejo mall stumbled and fell while racing to his car before discovering he was on the wrong level of a parking structure.

As he tried to jog down the flight of stairs to his car, a pair of deputies were climbing up -- an encounter that ended in fatal gunfire.

It appears nothing went right for Kirk Christian Knight in a robbery that had a tragic ending for the Rancho Santa Margarita man.

After encountering the deputies at the Shops at Mission Viejo, he retreated into the parking area and fired a single shot at the lawmen, missing.

Orange County Acting Sheriff Jack Anderson said the deputies returned fire, but he declined to say how many shots were fired or how many times Knight was hit. Knight was pronounced dead at Mission Hospital, which is adjacent to the mall.

Authorities said Knight used a handgun to rob the Fredric H. Rubel jewelry store, by Nordstrom on the upper level of the mall. The jeweler is about 90 feet from an entrance on the mall's southeast side, which is connected to a parking garage by a walkway.

The robber attracted attention as soon as he entered the mall because of an obvious wig he wore as a disguise, Anderson said. He walked into the jewelry store carrying a briefcase and a firearm, Anderson said.

While in the store, the robber brought more attention to himself from shoppers who heard display cases breaking and saw the store's employees standing back from the cases with their hands at their sides.

Anderson said several witnesses called emergency services about 5:30 p.m., and the deputies, who were parked nearby discussing where to take their dinner break, responded.

After taking watches and precious stones from the jewelry store, Knight ran out with the loot inside the briefcase. He ran through the walkway doors but stumbled and fell, dropping the wig, briefcase and a semiautomatic handgun, Anderson said.

Knight was being followed by a bevy of mall security guards and witnesses. He picked up the briefcase and gun and fired a shot in the air, Anderson said, apparently to scare off his pursuers.

Knight's car was parked in the level below.

Anderson said he did not know the value of the items stolen by Knight, but said "it wasn't worth his life."

He said Knight, who was unemployed, was using ammunition capable of penetrating the deputies' armored vests, but declined to further describe the bullets.

Knight was arrested in San Diego in 2005 on DUI charges and in Arizona last year on charges of possessing burglary tools and using an illegal license plate, Anderson said.

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hgreza@latimes.com

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