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Catalytic Converter Theft Suspects Arrested Following Pursuit

Santa Barbara, Calif.  – On Sunday, July 31, 2022, at approximately 3:51 a.m., deputies were dispatched to the 5200-block of Rhoads Avenue in Santa Barbara to investigate a report of possible catalytic converter thefts in progress. While they were responding to the area, a deputy spotted a vehicle that matched the description of outstanding suspects in previous catalytic converter thefts in the nearby area. The deputy attempted a traffic stop of the vehicle on the Turnpike Road southbound onramp to Highway 101. The vehicle failed to yield and deputies initiated a pursuit southbound on Highway 101. Additional deputies and California Highway Patrol (CHP) responded to the area to assisted with the pursuit.

As deputies and CHP pursued the vehicle, the occupants threw what was later identified as a vehicle jack out of the window of the moving vehicle in the area of 101 southbound at Sheffield. Deputies were able to maneuver around the object and continued the pursuit. In the area of Mussel Shoals, the occupants again threw an item, later identified as a catalytic converter out of the window damaging a patrol car to the extent that the deputy had to drop out of the pursuit.

CHP continued pursuing the vehicle into Ventura where the vehicle finally yielded on Orchard Drive near Ventura Avenue. Three suspects were taken into custody, one juvenile along with 40-year-old Gustavo Pineda from Los Angeles, and 41-year-old Carlos Alberto Cristales-Mendez from Commerce. The juvenile was released to a guardian.

Pineda was booked at the Main Jail for charges including grand theft (felony), destruction of evidence (misdemeanor), assault with a deadly weapon (felony), conspiracy (felony), child endangerment (felony), evading (felony), vandalism (felony), contributing to the delinquency of a minor (misdemeanor), and throwing a substance from a vehicle with intent to cause great bodily injury (felony). He is being held without bail.

Cristales-Mendez was booked at the Main Jail for the same charges as Pineda along with possession of a controlled substance (misdemeanor) and possession of drug paraphernalia (misdemeanor). He is being held on $600,000 bail.

No law enforcement officers, suspects or bystanders were injured in this incident.  One patrol car was towed from the 101 freeway.

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