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Monday, August 27, 2012, 04:18 pm PT (07:18 pm ET)

San Francisco police fire gun, close school in chase to recover stolen iPhone

Police tracked a stolen iPhone in San Francisco to what appeared to be a smartphone theft ring, firing a shot at suspects and briefly locking down an elementary school along the way.

According to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle, the chase began in 6:30 am when two armed robbers stole an iPhone from an individual on the street in Ocean View.

Police tracked the iPhone to Noe Valley, apparently using Apple's iCloud "Find My iPhone" feature. Upon seeing the officers, the suspects ran, with one attempting to jump a fence into St. Paul's Catholic Church near 29th Street, which is connected to an elementary school.

Police secured the school for about a half hour, just as students were beginning to arrive. The suspect attempting to jump a gate into the church's school campus turned toward police with his hand concealed, resulting in one officer discharging her weapon.

The shot missed and the suspect got away, but police were able to apprehend a second suspect nearby on Church Street, and then tracked the stolen phone to a car about three miles away on the other side of Twin Peaks near Seventh Avenue in the Sunset District.

There, they found a third suspect inside the car and a fourth hiding in the trunk, along with "other allegedly stolen smartphones."

Police then looked up the car's registration to a nearby home, where they detained two additional suspects.

Smartphone thefts in San Francisco have become routine and increasingly involve holdups, often with thieves brandishing weapons. So far, Apple and its carrier partners have done little to make it difficult to use stolen phones, resulting in large market for stolen devices.

However, the company's free iCloud tracking system had helped many users to recover their devices, although it is not difficult for thieves to deactivate the tracking feature, something several bloggers have recommended the company address by at least requiring a password to shut down a stolen phone.