Police: Motorist shot dead after interrupting suspects trying to steal catalytic converter in St. Paul


A motorist cut off suspects trying to steal his vehicle’s catalytic converter over the weekend in St. Paul, then chased them and was shot, police said Monday.

The shooting, which occurred around 2:40 a.m. Sunday in the 1100 block of Marion Street, comes amid one of the toughest crimes for law enforcement to solve: the theft of converters that criminals covet for a quick cash sale to scrap dealers, leaving vehicle owners with a hefty repair bill of up to thousands of dollars.

Officers spoke with a 56-year-old woman who told them her son had been shot, police said. Shortly after, Juan M. Ramirez, 23, of St. Paul, was taken by his sister to Regions Hospital with a non-critical gunshot wound to the chest. He was still hospitalized Monday afternoon.

According to witnesses and evidence gathered at the scene, Ramirez apparently broke up the flight. When the suspects jumped into a car and drove off, Ramirez gave chase in a vehicle and was shot, police said.

No arrests have been announced.

Thefts of catalytic converters, which limit a vehicle’s exhaust emissions, are valued for the precious metals they contain and can sell for hundreds of dollars, the state says, has risen nationwide over the past two years. In 2021, nearly 2,000 catalytic converters were stolen in Saint-Paul, more than five per day.

St. Paul police spokesman Steve Linders said two people were shot this year while breaking up ongoing catalytic converter thefts.

“We understand that catalytic converter thefts are infuriating, but we don’t encourage people to stand up to thieves,” he said. “Instead, we’re asking people to call 911 to report a crime in progress. Turn on the house lights. Press the panic button on the vehicle key fob. And get as much information as possible on the thieves so that they can be shared with the investigators.”

Marty Ruddy, president of Terra Firma Building and Remodeling in St. Paul, said the situation was similar to when he was shot last month after confronting two people who were trying to saw off a catalytic converter from his colleague’s car. .

The catalytic converter from a company vehicle had been stolen earlier that month, he said, so when he saw a suspicious car drive into the parking lot around 3:40 p.m. on February 21 at 2350 Territorial Road, Ruddy decided to confront the suspects.

As he approached them, he was shot and the suspects fled.

“I was able to crawl into the parking lot so a co-worker could call 911 because I didn’t have my phone on me,” he said. “I was lucky to survive.”

Ruddy, 52, was shot in the left hip, fracturing the bone. He spent three days at HCMC. He is still on crutches.

The Saint-Paul police were not able to immediately respond if there had been any arrests in connection with this case.

Don Reeder, spokesman for the League of Minnesota Cities, said the organization has included preventing the theft of catalytic converters among its 2022 legislative priorities.

Three bills are being considered this session relating to the purchase, acquisition or sale of catalytic converters, league officials said.

A pending bill would authorize the creation of an electronic database to allow law enforcement to track the sale of used catalytic converters to scrap metal facilities. It mimics similar databases used by pawnbrokers.

“This is information that scrap dealers are supposed to collect anyway,” said state Rep. Paul Novotny, R-Elk River, co-sponsor in his room with Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin.

“Since it would be an electronic database, then it’s searchable” and easily accessible from anywhere in the state, said Novotny, who retired in 2020 after more than 30 years as Sherburne County Sheriff’s Deputy.

To deter anyone hoping to offload a stolen catalytic converter, Novotny’s bill would also require all scrap dealers to prominently post a sign advising customers that all transactions involving the devices are reported to the state Department of Public Safety. and made available to law enforcement. statewide.

In January, the St. Paul City Council approved an ordinance change that would make possession of a catalytic converter that is not attached to a vehicle a misdemeanor.

At the time the ordinance was passed, Council Member Chris Tolbert said many of his constituents in Highland Park and Macalester-Groveland had had their catalytic converters stolen on several occasions. “It’s a devastating amount of money for people [it] replaced,” he said.

Other city efforts to crack down on these thefts — including St. Paul police marking catalytic converters to make them less attractive to thieves — did little.

Across the Twin Cities last month, Shakopee made it a crime to own a loose catalytic converter without proof of ownership.


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