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‘This was probably his worst choice:’ Homeowner holds suspected catalytic converter thief at gunpoint

“Of all the places to go, this was probably his worst choice,” said the military contractor.
Published: May. 18, 2021 at 8:22 AM CDT
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HARRISON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - A Harrison County community has a tip for any would-be thieves: Don’t try it in a military neighborhood.

A Long Beach man found that out the hard way after he was held at gunpoint in a military housing neighborhood just off County Farm Road.

John Thomas Cearley, 50, was arrested early Monday morning after a resident said he was trying to steal a catalytic converter off a vehicle.

John Thomas Cearley, 50, was arrested early Monday morning on a charge of possession of...
John Thomas Cearley, 50, was arrested early Monday morning on a charge of possession of burglary tools and a charge of possession of a controlled substance.(Harrison County Adult Detention Center)

Matthew Hudson was in his home in the 14000 block of Heroes Way when he said he heard what sounded like a saw being used outside shortly after midnight.

“Of all the places to go, this was probably his worst choice,” said Hudson.

The military contractor ran downstairs, where he said he found Cearley under his Ford Excursion.

“I grabbed my sidearm, came outside and saw him under the truck there. (I) drew on him, pretty much told him it was the wrong house,” Hudson said. “He came out pretty quick. He hit his head on the truck coming out. By the time it was all done, he was begging and crying not to call the cops.”

Those pleas went unheard as Hudson called the authorities. Then, he said he and his neighbor held Cearley at gunpoint to stop him from fleeing before deputies got there.

“We ordered him on the ground. At first, he complied,” said Hudson. “He started to get fidgety and we were going to restrain him, at which time he decided to resist that, so we just backed off and covered him until the police got here.”

Well this happened tonight. He got to meet two of my little friends, as well as my neighbors little friend. Now he’s looking at at least two felony charges, plus others. Needless to say, I can now not sleep.

Posted by Matthew Hudson on Monday, May 17, 2021

When deputies arrived, they said the catalytic converter on Hudson’s Excursion was partially cut off. Authorities also said they found the tools Cearley was using to commit the theft.

Deputies later found Cearley’s car and searched it, finding more burglary tools and heroin, according to Harrison County Sheriff’s Office.

Monday morning, Hudson took to social media to post what happened. Since then, he said he has been flooded with people commenting, questioning if Cearley could be the suspect who stole catalytic converters off their vehicles.

Catalytic converter theft is a growing problem across the country, including in South Mississippi. These thefts are on the rise because there’s a lot of money for criminals to make from these crimes.

Thieves target catalytic converters because they contain precious metals, like platinum, palladium or rhodium, that are valuable to metal dealers. They can sell them to scrap yards for up to $200.

Thieves typically use a saw or wrench to remove it, depending on whether the catalytic converter is bolted or welded in. Removal can take as little as one minute.

Hudson said this is the second time someone has stolen the catalytic converter off of his vehicle.

Cearley is now facing charges of possession of burglary tools and a charge of possession of a controlled substance. He was taken to Harrison County Adult Detention Center, where a $50,000 bond was set by Justice Court Judge Brandon Ladner.

To read more about catalytic converter thefts in South Mississippi and ways you can protect your vehicle, click here.

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