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Milford catalytic converter theft suspect attacks witness with Sawzall: Police

Police are asking for help to find the suspect, who they say attacked a witness after he was seen stealing a catalytic converter from a car.

MILFORD, Connecticut — Milford police are looking for a suspect who they said, not only stole a catalytic converter from a car in a parking lot but attacked a witness with a Sawzall who had been recording the incident.

On Tuesday around 7:30 p.m. in the parking lot of Target, a witness noticed a man enter the parking lot in a white Toyota Solara, police said. The man got out of the car with a Sawzall and approach a parked vehicle.

The man was then seen cutting the catalytic converter off of the vehicle using a Sawzall, which is a brand name for a handheld reciprocating saw, but many use that name to refer to the style of the saw.  

RELATED: 18 catalytic converters stolen from Plainville school bus yard: police

The suspect allegedly noticed the witness taking pictures of him and approached the witness' vehicle.

"They approached the witness, they started yelling at the witness, smashed out the driver's side window of their vehicle and then tried to get them to come out of the car arguing with them," said Pfc. Marilisa Anania, of the Milford Police Department.

The suspect was carrying a Sawzall and swung it around, cutting the witness' arm before driving off in the white Toyota Solara. The plates on the Toyota were from a different vehicle, police said.

It happened in broad daylight, something shoppers at the busy shopping mall said they would never expect.

"No that's weird absolutely not that would be absolutely shocking, especially during the daytime, that's scary," said Dorothy Kirnon of West Haven.

However, police said thieves are becoming bolder and catalytic converter thefts are on the rise everywhere.

"It can be easily removed from a vehicle and it can be done quickly," Anania said.

People are aware of it and are taking steps to protect themselves from falling victim to the crime.

"My dad actually just bought a camera for our driveway specifically because I just got this car. So now they make me park in the driveway in this specific spot every time," said Jenna King of Milford.

Investigations are seeking the public's help in identifying the suspect. They released a photo. Anyone with any information is asked to contact Officer Aquino at 203-878-6551.

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The incident came the same day Gov. Ned Lamont signed legislation cracking down on the theft of catalytic converters by enacting new requirements on how motor vehicle recyclers, scrap metal processors, junk dealers, junkyard owners and operators, and motor vehicle repair shops receive and sell catalytic converters.

Starting on July 1, it will be illegal for motor vehicle recyclers to receive a vehicle’s catalytic converter unless it is physically attached to a motor vehicle. In addition, recyclers must affix or write a stock number on the part, and create a written record of the transaction, including the name, address, telephone number, license number, and automobile VIN number of the customer, according to the governor's office.

Scrap metal processors, junk dealers, and junkyard owners and operators cannot accept a catalytic converter that is not physically attached to a motor vehicle unless they:

  1. Record the place and date of the transaction, a description of the catalytic converter, and the amount paid;
  2. Record a description of the seller and the seller’s name, address, and driver’s license number;
  3. Affix or write a stock number on the catalytic converter;
  4. Record the license plate number of the motor vehicle that was used to transport the catalytic converter;
  5. Obtain from the seller a statement that they own the catalytic converter; and
  6. Take a photograph or video of the seller and their driver’s license.

RELATED: New law requires paper trail for catalytic converter transactions to diminish theft profits

In addition, sellers may only sell one catalytic converter per day to a scrap metal dealer. Scrap metal processors and junk dealers can only pay a seller by check, which is mailed to their home address.

Scrap metal processors and junk dealers will now also be required to electronically submit all of their information on catalytic converter sales to the Connecticut State Police once per week.

Police warned people if they see suspicious activity, do not approach a subject. They said a good witness can provide:

  • Description of the suspect vehicle, including the type, make, model, color, significant marks, designs or damage.
  • License plate state, numbers, letters
  • Subject description (physical description and/or clothing description)
  • Thieves use a loud saw to remove the converter. If you see someone under a car and hear a loud saw, call the police immediately. Do not approach the subjects alone!
  • Often, thieves work as a team. One person will remove the converter, and another will drive the getaway car. If you see something suspicious, try to get the license plate of the car and call the police immediately.

Police also said: 

  • Try to park where the car will be visible, under lights after dark or near entrances and windows at businesses.
  • Park near security cameras if possible.
  • You can help protect your car against catalytic converter theft by etching the license plate number on it.
  • Ask mechanics about installing a catalytic converter protection device.

Doug Stewart is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. He can be reached at dstewart@fox61.com.

Gaby Molina is a reporter and anchor at FOX61 News. She can be reached at mmolina@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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