Tow truck driver accused of assault

July 30, 2008 4:15:43 PM PDT
Authorities accuse a local tow truck driver of intimidating people into giving up their vehicle by showing a gun. They made the arrest Wednesday afternoon.Eraclio Salas, 24, has been charged with two counts of aggravated assault. Authorities say in one case, Salas actually shot at someone. The Gulf Coast Violent Offenders task force has been looking for him since Friday.

Eyewitness News was there as police detained and questioned a woman at a home in connection with a scrap metal theft ring. While they let her go, they arrested a tow truck driver accused of towing cars illegally. Authorities say he was even going as far as to threaten to shoot the owners if they refused to turn their vehicles over. Along with the suspect, they found more than 30 catalytic convertors and an electric saw.

Houston Police Sgt. Acevedo said, "It's a very big problem we're having now and that's why we are trying to focus and narrow down as to who is doing it."

The convertors are each worth between $75 and $100 as scrap. The street value from today's bust is anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000.

"They crawl underneath and as fast as they can, they try to saw off the catalytic convertors and get away with them," Sgt. Acevedo explained.

Back in May, we showed how thieves managed to steal catalytic convertors from two school buses. The titanium inside can go for $300 at a recycling facility where they pay by the pound. It's unclear if these cases are connected.

Salas has not been charged with stealing the catalytic convertors. Police are still investigating. He has a lengthy criminal history, including several convictions on charges ranging from auto theft to assault on a public servant.

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