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Catalytic converter thieves explain they ‘gotta eat’ as they hold Berkeley business owner at gunpoint

A Berkeley shop owner was threatened with a gun for confronting thieves stealing an employee's catalytic converter in early March. | Courtesy Bill Plumb

A Berkeley business owner said he was held at gunpoint while thieves stole his employee’s catalytic converter, justifying the act by telling him they "gotta eat."

“I jumped out of my desk and yelled, ‘What the f*** are you doing?’ and then this guy held a pistol held to my face,” said Aaron Shores, owner of Acme Scenery Company, which constructs sets for plays and corporate events.

Shores said the theft happened around 2:30 p.m. on March 1 by his shop near Dwight Way and Fifth Street. Shores said he heard sawing noises outside his window before seeing a double-parked car and three people who appeared to be stealing a catalytic converter.

“I said something like, ‘How can you bottom feeders do this to regular folks?’ and then the one guy [holding the gun] said, ‘Gotta eat,’” Shores said.

Shores said he has had his catalytic converter stolen three times and his car stolen four times during his more than 25 years living in the Bay Area, but he said he has never seen a catalytic converter theft happen in broad daylight, and having a gun pointed at him during the incident has made him worry about his safety.

Acme Scenery Company | Courtesy Aaron Shores

“It’s put me in a place where I may consider not being in the Bay Area any longer; it’s put me in that headspace,” Shores said. “But this is where my business is.”

READ MORE: Catalytic Converter Thieves Yell ‘Film This’ Before Shooting at Victim, Witness Says

The employee who had their catalytic converter stolen, Bill Plumb, said that he also heard sawing noises but only saw the thieves leave in their car.

“I only saw the tail end of it,” Plumb said. “Then I went to start my car, and sure enough.”

Plumb said he had installed a catalytic converter shield, but in the end, it only made the repair more expensive, running up $3,500 to replace the converter, the muffler and part of the exhaust pipe—although his insurance covered most of the costs, he said.

“[The shop] showed me the replacement part, and it was like 5 feet long,” Plumb said.

A brand new catalytic converter | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The March 1 theft marks the second time that he has had his catalytic converter stolen, with the first time being in front of his Lafayette home in 2018, according to Plumb.

Berkeley police confirmed that three suspects were spotted stealing a catalytic converter around 2:37 p.m. on March 1, before brandishing a firearm at a man who confronted the suspects before fleeing in a gray or silver sedan.

Police added that the suspects were in their 30s and two of them were wearing masks and hoodies, according to witnesses.