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Car crushes man suspected of trying to steal its catalytic converter

Police at the scene of where a man died after being crushed by a car.
Anaheim Police officials said a man was killed while attempting to steal a catalytic converter from beneath a Toyota Prius.
(OnScene.TV)

Catalytic converter thefts continue to climb in Southern California, with one leading to the suspected thief’s death.

An employee at an Anaheim industrial building arrived to work Wednesday about 6:20 a.m. and discovered a man’s legs sticking out from underneath a company car, said Anaheim Police Sgt. Shane Carringer.

Based on the tools with him and his position under the car, first responders concluded he had been trying to detach the catalytic converter from the Toyota Prius, Carringer said.

“It appears he was attempting to steal a catalytic converter off the vehicle when the jack he used failed, and the jack failure caused the car to fall on top of him,” Carringer said.

While the man’s death is unusual, catalytic converter thefts are becoming increasingly common in Southern California. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported a 400% increase in catalytic converter thefts from 2019 to 2020.

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In Los Angeles County alone, the sheriff’s department reported a 400% increase in catalytic converter thefts from 2019 to 2020.

Every car comes equipped with the device, which is made with precious metals that reduce the vehicle’s toxic emissions. Toyota Priuses are a favorite target because the hybrid vehicles emit fewer toxins, leaving a cleaner and more valuable catalytic converter.

The parts have become a windfall for thieves, who can make hundreds of dollars selling them to auto parts suppliers or scrapyards. Catalytic converters can be melted and the highly valuable metals, such as palladium and rhodium, extracted.

San Bernardino officials happened upon a trove of 150 stolen catalytic converters last week after a patrol officer attempted a traffic stop, officials said. The driver fled, but the officer tracked him to a house in the 1100 block of North Barton Street, according to a news release.

When doing a safety sweep of the home, the officer found about 150 catalytic converters in the family room, said San Bernardino Police Sgt. John Echevarria.

Isaac Guerra, Julio Maravilla and Anthony Andrade were arrested on suspicion of grand theft, grand theft auto and possession of stolen property, and were booked into the San Bernadino County Detention Center, according to Echevarria.

Since the news of the arrests, Echevarria said people have been calling the police to ask about stolen catalytic converters from their Fords, Buicks and Dodges. But unless they have marked the device somehow, there’s no way to know which one belongs to which vehicle.

“It’s like walking in ... and seeing a locker room full of shoes,” Echevarria said.

AAA spokesman Doug Shupe recommended engraving catalytic converters with the vehicle’s identification number and storing vehicles in locked garages or well-lighted areas outside. Car alarms may be recalibrated to sound when someone is tinkering underneath the vehicle, too, he added.


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