Two people were arrested on suspicion of catalytic converter thefts early Sunday following a series of pursuits that started along Highway 101 in Buellton and continued several miles down the coast.

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies, along with a sheriff’s K-9 unit and the California Highway Patrol, made the arrests after using spike strips to stop the suspect vehicle and enlisting a K-9 to sniff out one of the suspects, who reportedly was hiding in a tree.

The chain of events began just before 5 a.m. Sunday when deputies responded to the 500 block of Sertoma Way for reports of thefts in progress, said Raquel Zick, sheriff’s public information officer.

A variety of tools and catalytic converters displayed on the ground
Catalytic converters and tools recovered by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday following the arrest of two suspects. Credit: Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office photo

“While they were on their way, sheriff’s dispatch relayed that the suspects were seen fleeing the area in a Fiat,” Zick said. “Deputies spotted a vehicle matching that description near McDonald’s in Buellton. When deputies attempted to stop the vehicle, the suspects fled and the driver entered the opposing lanes of traffic, driving southbound in the northbound lanes of Highway 101.

“In the interest of public safety, deputies discontinued their pursuit of the vehicle and shared the suspect and vehicle description with CHP, who located the vehicle further south on the 101, in the southbound lanes.”

At that time, the CHP attempted to stop the vehicle, and the driver again entered the opposing lanes and the pursuit was terminated.

CHP officers set up a spike strip on Highway 101 near Las Varas Canyon where officers successfully disabled the vehicle that was traveling southbound in the northbound lanes.

After a short foot pursuit, the first suspect, 27-year-old Nathaniel Santiago Reyes of El Monte, was taken into custody at 5:28 a.m.

A sheriff’s K-9 unit tracked the second suspect, 32-year-old Bryan Arciniega of Los Angeles, to his hiding place in a palm tree and apprehended him at 6:30 a.m.

Deputies recovered two stolen catalytic converters from the suspects’ vehicles. Deputies have identified the vehicles from which they were stolen and are not looking for any additional victims associated with this incident.

Reyes was booked at the Main Jail on suspicion of vandalism, attempt to commit grand theft, possession of burglary tools, possession of stolen property, and conspiracy – all felony charges – as well as obstructing a peace officer (misdemeanor), and possession of a controlled substance.

He was being held on an increased bail of $75,000.

Arciniega was booked at the Main Jail on suspicion of felony reckless evasion, vandalism, attempt to commit grand theft, possession of burglary tools, possession of stolen property and conspiracy, and misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and obstructing a peace officer. He was being held on an enhanced bail of $150,000.