An alleged catalytic converter thief was killed Tuesday evening when the vehicle’s occupant started the engine and ran over him, according to police.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said the incident happened in Palmdale, a city about 65 miles north of Los Angeles.
Deputies said a woman was asleep inside the vehicle in a Target parking lot, according to KABC-TV.
Investigators said they believe another car pulled up next to the Ford Excursion and one man got out, crawled under the SUV and started sawing off the catalytic converter, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The noise woke up the woman, who started the engine and put the vehicle in reverse.
When she started backing up, she “felt a bump like she ran something over,” the department said, according to the Associated Press.
“She stopped immediately, leaving the suspect on the ground after running him over.”
The woman called 911 and the man was transported to Antelope Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the Times reported.
There were three other occupants in the car that had pulled up next to the woman’s SUV — two women and a man, according to the Times. They were detained, according to the sheriff’s office.
Catalytic converter theft is rampant in California, in part due to the state’s strict vehicle emission laws, according to the Department of Justice.
“With California’s higher emission standards, our community has become a hot bed for catalytic converter theft,” said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert for the Eastern District of California last November, in a statement regarding arrests in what they called “the takedown … of leaders and associates of a national network of thieves, dealers, and processors.” Twenty-one people in five states were arrested in that investigation.
The DOJ statement said that California accounts for 37 percent of all catalytic converter theft claims nationwide.
In 2021, about 1,600 catalytic converters per month were reportedly stolen, the DOJ said.
“Catalytic converters use precious metals in their center, or ‘core,’ and are regularly targeted for theft due to the high value of these metals, especially the precious metals palladium, platinum, and rhodium,” according to the DOJ statement. “Some of these precious metals are more valuable per ounce than gold and their value has been increasing in recent years.
“The black-market price for catalytic converters can be above $1,000 each, depending on the type of vehicle and what state it is from. They can be stolen in less than a minute.”
Talbert said the members of the theft ring that was broken up last year sold the stolen catalytic converters to a metal refinery for tens of millions of dollars.
The problem is not unique to California. Earlier this month, the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile — a hot dog-shaped vehicle — lost its catalytic converter to thieves during a stopover in Las Vegas.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.