Early Sunday morning, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office received a call about a potential catalytic converter theft in progress, which led sheriff’s deputies and California Highway Patrol officers on a 40-mile pursuit down the Central Coast until the suspects were apprehended in Ventura.
The call came in shortly before 4 a.m. in the Noleta neighborhood off Walnut Avenue, where upon reporting to the scene, a deputy found the suspect vehicle — which also “matched the description of outstanding suspects in previous catalytic converter thefts in the nearby area,” according to sheriff’s spokesperson Raquel Zick.
The deputy attempted to stop the vehicle near the Highway 101 on-ramp at Turnpike, but the car sped off southbound toward Santa Barbara. At this point, backup deputies and CHP units joined in pursuit.
As the chase neared Summerland, Zick said the suspects threw “what was later identified as a vehicle jack,” which pursuing officers were able to avoid. A little more than 10 miles later, as the pursuit passed through the Mussel Shoals area between Carpinteria and Ventura, the suspects threw another item, this one later identified as a catalytic converter, which hit and damaged a patrol car “to the extent that the deputy had to drop out of the pursuit.”
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CHP continued giving chase into Ventura County and up the Ojai Freeway, where the suspect vehicle finally came to a stop on Orchard Drive near Ventura Avenue. Three occupants were taken into custody — one juvenile, 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, while both Pineda and Cristales-Mendez were booked into Santa Barbara’s Main Jail under a long list of charges, including grand theft, destruction of evidence, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy, child endangerment, evading, vandalism, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and throwing a substance from a vehicle with intent to cause great bodily injury. Pineda is being held without bail, while Cristales-Mendez’s bail was set at $600,000.
One patrol car was damaged and towed, but there were no injuries reported in the incident.