Van with stolen catalytic converters crashes into deputy’s car

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy suffered minor injuries when a van containing stolen catalytic converters crashed into the officer’s vehicle in Santa Clarita early Saturday, authorities said.

Deputies initiated a pursuit of a silver Honda Odyssey van near the 5 Freeway and Valencia Boulevard shortly before 3:15 a.m., said Lt. Brandon Barclay of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. They canceled the chase a short time later as the driver sped off erratically, he said.

About 30 seconds later, the Burbank Police Department requested assistance regarding an unrelated report of a stolen vehicle in the 24500 block of Lyons Avenue, Barclay said. As deputies responded to that location, the van they had been pursuing earlier slammed into a deputy’s SUV near the 5 Freeway and Lyons Avenue, Barclay said.

“It’s like those guys were destined to go to jail,” he said.

The deputy received minor injuries and was taken to a hospital as a precaution. Two suspects in the van were taken into custody and transported to a hospital. They suffered severe injuries, with one sustaining a fractured jaw and a possible brain bleed, Barclay said.

The suspected driver of the van fled on foot and was eventually found hiding in a tree behind a home with the assistance of an airship, Barclay said. The suspect was a parolee who had absconded from San Luis Obispo, Barclay said. The suspects’ names were not immediately released.

Six to eight catalytic converters were recovered from the van, Barclay said. Catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. The parts contain precious metals, and they can be quickly cut off using power tools or simple handsaws, making them highly sought by thieves, according to authorities.

Because of the global demand for the critical emission-control devices, just an ounce of the precious metals can be worth thousands of dollars, authorities said.

A recent event hosted by the Los Angeles Police Department and sponsored by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department at which people could have their cars’ vehicle identification numbers etched onto their catalytic converters drew hundreds of motorists. The etched-on VINs are intended to help law enforcement build a case against a thief and could deter recycling businesses from processing the stolen parts or looking the other way, authorities said.

Times staff writer Nathan Solis contributed to this report.

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