SAN LEANDRO (CBS SF) — A group of catalytic converter thieves in San Leandro was trapped by police inside a condominium complex’s gated parking garage early Tuesday morning, until they drove through the gate to escape, injuring an officer in the process.
“They struck one of our officers and then rammed the gate until the gate gave way,” says Lt. Ali Khan with the San Leandro Police Department.READ MORE: VIDEO: Wind-Whipped Dixie Fire Ignites Homes In Greenville; Fire Crews 'Going Into Life Threat Mode'
One suspect was eventually captured following the incident which happened at around 5:50 a.m. Tuesday on the 1100 block of Carpentier Street, San Leandro police said.
The theft was interrupted by a worker who heard a strange sound coming from the gated garage — the sound of metal being cut — and called 911.
“I saw the guy running. He ran to his car and tried to come out the middle gate to no avail. And that’s when San Leandro PD showed up,” says the witness who asked to be identified only by his last name Flores.
Officers arriving at the Peralta Creek Tower Condominiums learned the suspects and the getaway vehicle were trapped inside the gated garage and set up a perimeter around the tower, deploying spike strips at the exit point.
However, when the officers tried to detain the suspects, they got into their vehicle and fled, ramming through one of the garage’s automatic gates to get away. An officer was struck by the fleeing vehicle; he sustained a minor leg injury that did not require emergency medical help, police said.
“Lo and behold, the guy crashes right through the gate. He almost hits my work truck. And the rest was history,” Flores said.READ MORE: PG&E Stock Dip Impacting Fortunes of Past Wildfire Victims
Officers chased the suspects into Oakland and eventually apprehended the driver. The other suspects were still at large; it was not clear how many suspects were involved.
“We are grateful that our Officer did not sustain significant injuries after being struck by the suspect vehicle,” said San Leandro Police Lt. Ali Khan in a press statement. “Our Officers attempted to de-escalate the incident by deploying spike strips and apprehending the suspect before entering their vehicle. The suspects showed total disregard for human life as they hit an officer and rammed the secured gate to escape.”
It was one of two early-morning catalytic converter thefts in San Leandro, Tuesday. At 7:40 a.m., officers responded to the second catalytic converter theft less than a mile away on the 300 block of Pershing Drive. Arriving officers located the suspect vehicle but they did not pursue it because of to public safety concerns, police said.
Year to date, San Leandro seen a 65% increase in catalytic converter thefts from 2020, police said. A monthly average comparison to 2019 is showing an increase of 431%.
Thieves target the catalytic converters, easily accessed under the vehicle as part of the emission system, because of the precious metals it contains.
Police advised vehicle owners that they can protect their catalytic converters by installing after-market guard plates under their vehicles.
MORE NEWS: COVID: Case Surge From Delta Variant Leading to Health Care Worker Fatigue
Devin Fehely contributed to this report.