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A woman in an SUV inadvertently killed a suspected catalytic converter thief. Her Ford Excursion rolled over the man, who was reportedly trying to steal the vehicle’s catalytic converter. The incident happened yesterday in Palmdale, California.

Just north of Los Angeles, Palmdale is kind of like the Wild West. So catalytic converter theft is like the Blitzkrieg but in Palmdale. And rather than happening in a dark alley or on a quiet street, the incident occurred in a well-lit retail parking lot, according to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department statement.

Upon arrival, deputies saw a lifted Ford Excursion slightly out of its parking space. A man’s body lay on the ground next to it. Excursion SUVs are common targets for catalytic converter theft, mainly because these beasts have plenty of ground clearance to facilitate this crime. 

How did the alleged catalytic converter thief get run over?

The man likely assumed no one was in the SUV, parked in a retail lot around 6 p.m. However, the owner was sleeping inside her Excursion. That itself is odd in an already odd tale. 

The would-be catalytic converter thief was in a group of four who had pulled up in a vehicle nearby, the LA Times reported. He got out, slid under the Excursion, and began sawing off the catalytic converter. 

“The victim woke up from the sound, turned the car on, put the vehicle in reverse, and felt a bump like she ran something over,” the Sheriff’s Office said. “She stopped immediately, leaving the suspect on the ground after running him over.”

Why was the driver’s Ford Excursion a target for catalytic converter theft?

Ford Excursion parked next to a forest
A Ford Excursion | Ford

The unidentified Excursion owner promptly called 911. Despite the woman’s Good Samaritan effort, the man was pronounced dead at a local hospital. The police detained the other three suspects. There’s no word on whether they face criminal charges.

Pickup trucks and SUVs, especially lifted models, are perfect targets for catalytic converter thieves wanting an easy swipe. So, do you have a vehicle that falls into this category? Here’s what you can do to avoid becoming a victim. 

How can vehicle owners protect themselves?

A mechanic working on a cars catalytic converter.
A mechanic works on a catalytic converter | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Park in well-lit areas where activity around your vehicle is noticeable. Also, parking in a garage or other structure increases your odds of avoiding catalytic converter theft. In addition, metal cages shielding the cat converter welded to the car’s undercarriage help prevent access. Engraving the VIN or license plate number onto the cat further discourages thieves from removing it. 

Catalytic converter theft has risen by 1,200% in the past year. So if you think this crime might not happen to you, you’re snubbing statistics.