Two men were charged this week after police found reciprocating saws, which are often linked to catalytic converter theft, in separate cases over the weekend, authorities report.
In one investigation, police said they also found a gun and drugs during the car stop. In the other, the motorist tried to evade police but got stuck in traffic, according to BPD.
On Sunday at 8:50 p.m., officers were heading to a call for service in North Berkeley “when they spotted a vehicle parked against a red curb with its music playing loudly in the area of Solano Avenue and The Alameda,” said Officer Byron White, Berkeley Police Department spokesman, in a prepared statement.
When they were done with the call for service, the vehicle was still parked where they had seen it, White said. Officers ran the license place and “discovered that the registered owner had outstanding arrest warrants,” he said.
Police detained all three people in the vehicle and, during a search, found a loaded handgun and reciprocating saw, “as well as a quantity of marijuana and methamphetamine,” said White. Those saws can be used to steal catalytic converters, White said, which has been an ongoing problem in the city in recent years.
BPD arrested Ravinder Dhillon, 37, of Antelope, along with the 25-year-old woman and 39-year-old man, both from Sacramento, who were with him. Dhillon was ultimately the only one charged in the case, however.
According to court records online, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Dhillon on Wednesday with possession of a firearm by a felon, carrying a concealed weapon within a vehicle and possession of ammunition by a prohibited person, which are all felonies. According to court papers, he has prior convictions for stalking, criminal threats and receiving stolen property. Dhillon’s next court date was not listed in records online as of publication time.
Charges in catalytic converter case
The prior day, Saturday, an officer had responded to Fifth Street and Allston Way in West Berkeley shortly before 4 p.m. for a report about “a suspicious person who was possibly stealing catalytic converters,” White said.
When police arrived, he said, there was an SUV parked on Fifth right behind a Toyota Prius, which has been a common target for catalytic converter theft.
“Moments later, a man holding a floor jack got inside the SUV and drove away,” White said. When the officer tried to stop the driver, he sped off, according to police. But he didn’t get far, said White: “When the suspect turned east onto University Avenue, he got stuck in traffic.”
The driver tried to “squeeze in between” stopped vehicles, but police caught up to him quickly and arrested him, White said.
Police ultimately identified the driver as 39-year-old Michael Grande, who has no permanent address.
During a vehicle search, police said they found one stolen catalytic converter, spare blades for a reciprocating saw and methamphetamine. Officers later found an abandoned battery-powered reciprocating saw next to the Prius from which the catalytic converter had been taken, White said.
This week, the district attorney’s office charged Grande with grand theft, which a felony. He was also charged with several misdemeanors: evasion and possession of both burglary tools and drugs. According to court records, Grande has prior convictions for grand theft and vehicle theft.
He is scheduled for an attorney and plea hearing March 12 at the René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland. Grande is no longer in custody, according to jail records online.