Catalytic converter thief slammed a stolen Lexus head-on into Chicago police squad car, prosecutors say

A man on bail and on probation for separate stolen motor vehicle cases rammed yet another stolen vehicle head-on into a Chicago police squad car as he tried to get away from cops who saw him trying to steal a catalytic converter in Jefferson Park, prosecutors said Saturday.

Police officers spotted three men trying to remove the catalytic converter from under a Honda that was lifted on jacks in the 5500 block of North Long around 3:20 a.m.

Christopher Smith | CPD

When they noticed the officers, all three men hurried to a nearby Lexus and sped away. The vehicle side-swiped one CPD unit before colliding head-on with another Chicago police vehicle. An officer in the second squad car was treated and released for back pain.

Prosecutor Gail Bembnister said all three men ran from the crash scene, and two got away. But the driver, 20-year-old Christopher Smith, did not.

She said police officers discovered three handguns in the crashed Lexus: one on the passenger seat, one in the back seat, and one on the driver’s floorboard. A power saw, a black backpack containing extra saw blades, a second power tool, and three power tool battery packs were also allegedly found in the vehicle.

Smith has been on probation since last year for possessing a stolen motor vehicle in DuPage County. He has pending stolen motor vehicle and burglary cases in Lake County, Bembnister said. As a juvenile, he was adjudicated delinquent for unlawful use of a weapon in 2019 and fleeing and eluding in 2018 and 2019, she said.

On Saturday, prosecutors charged him with possessing a stolen motor vehicle, unlawful possession of burglary tools, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, and three counts of aggravated battery of a peace officer.

David Gaeger, a private defense attorney, indicated that Smith works full-time at FedEx and is an active parent to his one child.

After reviewing the allegations, Judge Maryam Ahmad ordered Smith to post a $28,000 bail deposit to be released from jail on electronic monitoring.

Earlier this week, federal prosecutors announced charges against 21 people who were allegedly part of a massive nationwide operation that trafficked and processed stolen catalytic converters. The ring, which officials said had revenues of at least $545 million, even had its own apps, website, and formal shipping arrangements to make trafficking in the stolen parts easy.

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