Late night legend blasts LA over crime after ‘General Hospital’ actor slain

A fixture of late-night television added his voice to the outrage over actor Johnny Wactor’s death with his take on why criminals were “so brazen.”

Since the actor known for his role on “General Hospital” was gunned down in Los Angeles, California after spotting a trio allegedly vying to steal his car’s catalytic converter, the county medical examiner has ruled the death a homicide. It was the crime leading up to the shots being fired that rankled former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno who expressed his outrage to TMZ.

After speaking to the outlet, it was reported, “The stand-up comic and renowned car guru told TMZ … it’s outrageous the penalty for ripping off converters — usually a $1,000 fine amounting to just a misdemeanor charge — isn’t vastly harsher.”

“The slap on the wrist most thieves receive — if they even get nabbed — is the reason they’re so brazen,” the post continued.

Meanwhile, Leno was cited for pointing out that while California’s soft-on-crime policy treated thieves with kid gloves, if an owner were to remove their own catalytic converter it would be a violation of federal law

Under the Clean Air Act, penalties for removing emissions control devices such as the catalytic converter go up to $4,819 for an individual and up to $48,192 for manufacturers and dealers as of Nov. 2020.

In addition to issues with California laws like 2014’s Prop 47 which treats the theft of goods under $950 as a misdemeanor instead of a felony, Leno further criticized the difference in costs for car owners to replace their catalytic converters. It often costs thousands of dollars in an unreliable market bogged down with backorders, versus the take from thieves who likely only brought in $20 per part, “which is why they steal so damn many.”

NBC reported that in 2023, nearly 15,000 catalytic converters had been stolen in California alone.

A similar complaint was made by Wactor’s former fiancée, actress Tessa Farrell, who posted an emotional message to social media in the wake of his May 25 death, “These criminals can’t keep being on the street and they can’t keep being sent back and have no repercussions for their actions.”

“It’s not okay. This can’t keep happening,” she continued. “So many lives are being lost, just us not being smart — we have to be smarter as a community.”

The actress also offered a direct plea to the as-yet-unidentified suspect, “If the person who did this, if you’re watching, I’m sorry, but you shot the wrong guy. You can get a real job. I know the job market’s hard but we’re all in it together. You don’t have to steal — especially take a life over it.”

In addition to her take, the victim’s mother, Scarlett Wactor, appeared on NBC’s “Today” where she expressed, “I think they are cowards. As a parent, you never expect to bury a child.”

Kevin Haggerty


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