Lexington police arrested two men Thursday in an attempted catalytic converters heist at a car dealership after finding one of the men in the woods and another under a vehicle in the middle of the night, according to reports.
The Lexington Police Department charged 23-year-old Tyler Lee Childers of Harleyville and 24-year-old John Otis Carn III of Saint George in the theft.
Childers was charged with breaking into a vehicle, attempted vehicle break-in, and unlawfully carrying a pistol. Carn was charged with two counts of breaking into a vehicle, possession of stolen metals and possession of tools used in a crime. Both were charged with criminal conspiracy and property damage.
“Catalytic converter thefts continue to be a concern and this case highlights how our officers’ quick response and then having immediate access to a drone greatly assisted in these arrests,” Chief Terrence Green said in a statement.
A burglar alarm went off at about 11:40 p.m. at JT’s Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram at 4838 Sunset Boulevard, according to a report. An officer arrived and found a gate open. The officer found several catalytic converters stashed under a truck.
A catalytic converter is part of a vehicle’s exhaust system that turns toxic gases from engines into water and carbon dioxide. The converters contain rhodium and palladium, two valuable metals.
The officer called for backup to set up a perimeter to find the people who had cut the converters from vehicles. Officers found a truck in the woods behind the dealership. A handgun and rifle were on the seat, police said.
The Lexington Police Department’s Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Team used a drone to fly over the woods. The drone found Childers hiding in the woods and police arrested him soon after, according to reports. After cuffing Childers, police found a loaded handgun in his jacket pocket, police said.
Police searched the dealership and found Carn hiding under a pickup truck where he had been removing a catalytic converter, officers said. He had a tool used for cutting metal with him.
At least three converters were cut from vehicles, according to police.
Officers jailed both men at Lexington County Detention Center. Childers was released on bond. Carn is still jailed, waiting for another police agency to charge him in a different incident, according to records.
“Law enforcement is rapidly changing with technology and tools evolving that assist our officers daily in making for a safer Town of Lexington,” Green said.
Thieves can make from $50 to several hundred dollars when they sell just one catalytic converter to a scrap yard, according to an article in Car and Driver.
And it can cost a car owner from $1,000 to more than several thousand dollars to get a new catalytic converter put on their car.
In December, state agents charged a Barnwell police officer who made at least $20,000 illegally buying and selling catalytic converters.
If convicted, Childers and Carn face the potential of decades in prison.