Catalytic converter thief killed when driver wakes up and runs over him, authorities say

Close-up of hands using a tool to etch numbers into a part underneath a car
An LAPD detective etches a vehicle identification number onto a car’s catalytic converter as a preventive measure against theft during an event last year in Silver Lake.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A man was run over and killed Tuesday after he allegedly crawled under a parked SUV and tried to steal the catalytic converter in Palmdale, authorities said.

The incident occurred just before 6 p.m. at a retail parking lot in the 39000 block of 10th Street West, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Four people were inside a vehicle parked near a Ford Excursion, according to the Sheriff’s Department. A man got out of the vehicle and crawled under the SUV, where he began trying to saw off the catalytic converter.


Ricardo Castro was off duty at the time of the 2021 crash in South Gate. Law enforcement sources said his pickup reached up to 90 mph on city streets.

Feb. 15, 2023

A woman who had been asleep in the Excursion woke up to the noise of the saw. According to the Sheriff’s Department, the woman turned the car on, put it in reverse, then “felt a bump like she ran something over.”

“She stopped immediately, leaving the suspect on the ground after running him over,” the statement read.

The woman, who was not identified, called 911.

The federal operation, the first of its kind coordinated by the U.S. Department of Justice, led to charges against 21 people in five states, including California.

Nov. 2, 2022

The man was taken to Antelope Valley Hospital, where he died. Authorities have not identified him.

The other three people in the car — two women and another man — were detained, authorities said.