A man was stabbed to death while allegedly trying to steal a catalytic converter from a parked car in South El Monte early Friday morning.

The man, believed to be between 45 and 50 years old, was stabbed in the chest a few minutes after 2:30 a.m. and declared dead at the scene in the 11200 block of Thienes Avenue, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.

Investigators believe the unidentified man and two others were trying to steal car parts from a vehicle parked in a driveway when a resident of the home came outside and confronted the alleged thieves.

That resident told deputies that he had been awoken by a commotion and saw the men trying to steal his catalytic converter, leading to one of the thieves being stabbed multiple times.

  • Catalytic Converter Thief Killed
  • Catalytic Converter Thief Stabbed
  • Authorities say a stabbing occurred when a resident confronted suspects who were attempting to steal a catalytic converter on April 21, 2023. (RMG)

The resident is “being detained for further questioning,” the release added, though officials said he is not being arrested at this point.

The other two alleged thieves, meanwhile, were last seen fleeing eastbound on Thienes Avenue in a compact vehicle. Tools were left at the scene, officials said.

Neighbors tell KTLA they believed this was an act of self-defense and the alleged thieves likely jumped over the homeowner’s fence.

“The guy was defending his property, his family so that’s why he did what he did,” said Gabriel Fragozo, a neighbor.

“I heard him screaming and I was like, ‘Oh my god, somebody’s fighting him!’ and he was like, ‘Get out, get out!’” recalled a neighbor who overheard the confrontation.

“It just happened so quickly,” said another neighbor. “It just caught them off guard. He was just trying to protect his family, his mom, his sister.”

Lt. Michael Gomez with LASD says catalytic converter thefts are on the rise. His best advice in this type of situation? 

“I would suggest people call 911 and be the best witnesses they can be and provide a description of those individuals before coming out to confront someone,” said Gomez.

Long-time friends say the homeowner who’s involved is very devoted to his family and this experience will be life-changing. 

“We’re just sitting here and we’re thinking, ‘Wow, what he’s going through right now, we can only imagine.’”

Anyone with information is asked to call the LASD Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. To provide information anonymously, call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477 or visit lacrimestoppers.org.