Surge in catalytic converter theft spurs safety concern for victims, witnesses

Milford police are again reminding the community if you witness an incident like a catalytic converter theft, do not intervene. It comes after a potentially deadly situation this week and one last month.
Police said three suspects in ski masks stole a catalytic converter from a car parked at the Holiday Inn on Old Gate Lane around 1:20 a.m. Wednesday.  The crew then allegedly went to the Hampton Inn on Plains Road and tried to steal another catalytic converter when a man confronted them. Police say the suspects started to leave the parking lot, then turned around with one pointing a gun at the man and a woman with him. Luckily, neither was hurt.
Police said the suspects were in a red Mazda 3 sedan with a missing front bumper and a rolled-up paper license plate. Officers later found the car at Motel 6, but the driver took off. Police pursued the car onto I-95 northbound but lost it in New Haven.  
The following day police posted on social media about the incident, writing: “As a friendly reminder to everyone, if you witness an incident such as a catalytic converter being stolen, BE A GOOD WITNESS. Do not try to intervene. Besides possible weapons, the tools used to steal these parts can also be extremely dangerous if used as a weapon. We want to encourage anyone who witnesses any such event to get to a safe place and contact the police with as much information as possible so that we can intervene and confront the suspect.”
The reminder came more than five weeks after a 60-year-old Milford man confronted catalytic converter thieves in his driveway and was attacked. Luke O’Brien had his face slashed with a grinding wheel, the tool they were using for the theft. O’Brien was rushed to the hospital where he needed over 300 stitches from his ear to his lip.
News 12 checked in with O’Brien Friday to see how he’s doing.
“Feeling a lot better, you know? Getting around, eating better,” O’Brien said.
His stitches have dissolved, but there’s still a lot of swelling. O’Brien is also sporting a beard, which covers the jagged scar he got. “I haven’t been able to shave or nothing. This is all new to me. I’ve never grown a beard in my life,” he said smiling.
O’Brien will see a specialist next week to find out what's next in his recovery and when he might be able to get back to work. “I’m a carpenter. This is killing me sitting around, you know. I got to be on my feet.”
He told News 12 he’d heard about the recent interrupted theft at the Hampton Inn and felt sorry for the victims since he knows what they went through. He also said he felt lucky the suspects in his case didn’t have a gun. “The way I was going at them, they would’ve probably used it.”

With this recent incident, O'Brien echoed the message from police not to intervene.
“It’s not worth it. I was within an inch of losing my life from the artery, you know. Within an inch. And that’s not much,” he said.
The investigation into O’Brien’s assault is still ongoing, but he said he’s hopeful his attacker will be caught.
He also thanked the community for the outpouring of support he received, including donations to help with his medical costs. “Through all this, you find out there’s a lot of good people out there.”