CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) — A man was crushed to death while attempting to steal a catalytic converter from a local business, according to officials in Georgia.

On Tuesday, Mar. 7, officers with the Chatham County Police Department (CCPD) were called to Prestige Auto Sales around 9:15 a.m. after a deceased man was found under a vehicle in the car lot.

Police say evidence at the scene indicates that the man was killed while he was illegally removing a catalytic converter from the vehicle, and the vehicle fell on top of him.

The man was identified as 32-year-old Matthew Eric Smith. Arrest records show he had been arrested multiple times in Chatham County.

Chief Jeff Hadley of the Chatham County Police Department says the expensive metals found in catalytic converters make them a hot item for thieves to make fast cash. 

Hadley believes one way to stop the problem is for state lawmakers to pass a law that makes it hard for people to buy or sell catalytic converters, like those proposed or passed in numerous other states.

“We normally don’t publicize every death investigation that we go to. Many are natural, it could be an overdose or something like that, but because of the uniqueness of this case,” Hadley said, adding that the police chose to share this case as a deterrent for anyone thinking about “go[ing] around stealing catalytic converters.”

CCPD said 39 catalytic converters were stolen in unincorporated Chatham County in 2022.

Catalytic converters, which help scrub pollutants from your engine’s exhaust, had become more and more attractive to thieves in recent years. Thanks to the increased prices of the precious metals used in the production — i.e, platinum, rhodium and palladium — an ill-gotten catalytic converter can “typically” fetch up to a few hundred dollars when sold to an unscrupulous recycling facility, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).