The Wild Tale of Sushi, a Stolen Truck and an IPad on a Dark and Stormy Night

Sushi, a Stolen Truck and an iPad on a Dark and Stormy Night in Concord

The Wild Tale of Sushi, a Stolen Truck and an IPad on a Dark and Stormy Night
Aftermath when thieves first tried to steal the truck in front of the Murray house in 2021. (Gail Murray photo)

CONCORD, CA (Mar. 28, 2023) — I was sitting at my computer looking out at the neighbor’s tall pine tree as it swayed in torrential rain and hurricane-force wind gusts.

I wonder if I should move. We’re getting notices about falling trees all over town. This one could crash on me while I’m sitting here.

Suddenly, blink. My computer died and the house went quiet. No power.

We had just joined more than 100,000 Pacific Gas and Electric customers who lost power by 4 pm. We were in the middle of what broadcast meteorologists called a “bomb cyclone,” defined by a rapidly dropping low pressure system as air from the Gulf of Alaska circled with moisture from Southern California’s jet stream.

“Let’s go somewhere so we don’t have to eat leftovers in the dark,” Jim suggested.

“Okay, I’ll plug my iPad into the charger in the truck. Then I’ll be able to read my book in the dark with its lit screen when we get home.”

We drove to a neighborhood sushi restaurant about a mile and a half away. I enjoyed my Pink Panther sushi roll and hot sake in a bright warm room. Jim popped pieces of nigiri sushi in his mouth as he washed them down with tea. We occasionally glanced at the baseball game on a giant screen.

Where’s the truck?

About an hour later we walked out into a dark parking lot. The winds had abated and there was a light drizzle.

“Where’s the truck?” I wondered.

“I parked it right over here.”

We looked around in bewilderment.

His jaw dropped. “It’s been stolen!”

“What? No, that can’t be.” I futilely paced the rows of the parking lot.

Back inside the restaurant, Jim called the Concord police. After an exasperating phone tree, he talked to a human who sent an out an officer. The patrol officer met us and took down critical details—a 2001 white Ford F-250 crew cab with a long bed and a large scrape on the passenger side. We then gratefully accepted her offer to drove us home.

“The only good thing is that the power is back on,” I said as we sat inside, stunned.

Not in the mood for reruns on TV, we called our son in a town about an hour away to share our tale of misery.

When we added the detail that I had put my iPad under the seat in the truck, our granddaughter yelled, “Check the ‘Find my phone’ app on your iPhone.”

“Huh? But it’s a pretty old iPad. I don’t think it has that….”

“Just try!”

And there it was, a dot showing the truck on a lonesome county road thirteen miles away in Martinez near an oil refinery. Each time we refreshed the app, the dot was just sitting there on Waterfront Road, not moving.

Call the police

“Call the Concord police right now!” our son and granddaughter yelled over the phone.

But the Concord police told Jim that Martinez is not in their jurisdiction. They transferred the call to the Martinez police. The Martinez police said that the area where we saw the truck was in the county and we should call the sheriff. The sheriff’s dispatcher said that they don’t recover stolen vehicles. She told us to call the California Highway Patrol but warned that they were overwhelmed with calls about flooding on the roads. After listening to an interminable music loop on the CHP line, we gave up.

Not too long afterwards, a deputy sheriff called back. The dispatcher had given him the impression that the truck was at the refinery’s main gate, but he realized that it couldn’t be there because the refinery had tight security. When Jim explained that we saw the dot on Waterfront Road, the deputy drove down to its dead end and found our truck.

“Come now to claim it,” he said. “If you leave it here tonight it will be completely stripped by morning.”

We jumped in my car and drove in pouring rain to Waterfront Road, the graveyard where stolen vehicles were parked.

Three sheriff deputies had brought a police dog, intending to apprehend the thieves, but the truck was abandoned. Instead, deputies were swabbing for DNA. Although the thieves had nearly destroyed the ignition, Jim was able to start it with the very tip of his key. They had stolen the catalytic converter, so the engine roared when he turned it on. They had also stolen all the tools from the box in the bed.

But the thieves had never found the heroic iPad, still safely tucked under a seat. I had taken to heart the warning “Don’t leave anything visible on your car seat.” Thieves hadn’t stolen the iPad and it had saved our truck.


We collapsed around midnight and put off to the next day all the duties of calling the insurance company and bringing it to a repair shop.

This is the first time thieves have been successful in stealing the truck. But it’s not the first time they tried. Three times in the middle of the night they had boldly attempted as the truck was parked under a streetlight at the curb in front of our house. The photo shows in October 2021 how the truck had to be towed to a shop for repairs because the ignition was so mangled by their efforts that it was immovable. The second time they tried to cut away parts of the steering wheel because Jim had a Club on it. The repair shop had to search junkyards to find a steering wheel for an old 2001 Ford. The last time they mangled the driver’s door trying to get in, but Jim was able to drive it himself to a repair shop.

We’ve heard that since it’s hard to find parts for this vehicle, it’s a very valuable commodity for thieves, who want to sell the stripped parts. I think the gods are telling us that it’s more than time for a new truck.

Why do Thieves Want Catalytic Converters?

Catalytic converters, anti-pollution devices required by law on gas-powered vehicles, work by using precious metals. Platinum, palladium and rhodium create a chemical reaction to convert carbon monoxide into oxygen and nitrogen, less toxic exhaust gases. Although a catalytic converter has only a few grams of each of these metals, a dishonest scrap yard recycler might pay $50 to $250 for the device. But because hybrid vehicles, like a Toyota Prius, have more of these precious metals, the reward jumps to $800-$1,500.

It’s very easy for the thief. It takes about two minutes for him to unbolt a catalytic converter with a wrench or to saw it off with a reciprocating saw. SUVs or trucks (like ours) are prized targets because they’re raised and more accessible to get under.

You can weigh these ideas for deterrence:

  • Crawl under and engrave the catalytic converter with your license plate number so police can track it.
  • Install an anti-theft device. It will cost several hundred dollars, but it’s cheaper than replacing a catalytic converter.
  • Buy a vehicle with an alarm system triggered by vibration.


  • Buy an electric vehicle—they don’t need catalytic converters.

Source: “Catalytic Converter Theft: What Is It and How to Prevent It,” by Carter Kilmann, Jan. 21, 2022.


Gail Murray
Gail Murray

Gail Murray served in Walnut Creek as Mayor and city councilmember for 10 years. From 2004-2016 she served as District 1 Director, Board of Directors of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART). She is the author of "Lessons from the Hot Seat: Governing at the Local and Regional Level."