EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 15, 2012

Cops: drivers keep car from plowing into kids

Erratic driver hit SUV, was weaving in and out of traffic, witness says; Infiniti reported stolen in Lawrence

By Mike LaBella
mlabella@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — Police said quick action by several drivers prevented children at a bus stop just north of downtown from getting hit by an erratically moving car.

Several drivers who noticed an Infiniti weaving in and out of traffic Wednesday morning on Main Street told police they pulled out of the way to prevent a big collision. One of the drivers said his SUV was sideswiped by the Infiniti and that he quickly pulled his vehicle into the street’s other lane to give the Infiniti extra room. Otherwise the children at a bus stop would have been hit by the Infiniti, the SUV driver told police.

With the help of the SUV driver, police tracked down the Infiniti, which they said was stolen in Lawrence. Police eventually caught the driver and said they discovered he was free on bail after being charged with armed robbery.

Police charged Jason Ruggs, 19, of Lowell with receiving a stolen motor vehicle (subsequent offense), reckless operation, driving without a license, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, leaving the scene of property damage, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

According to a police report, after Ruggs was arrested and informed of the charges against him, he responded by saying, “Don’t you worry. I will beat that and I got me a good lawyer.”

Ruggs was arraigned on the charges Wednesday in Haverhill District Court. Assistant District Attorney Brad Papalardo said Ruggs managed to accumulate a substantial criminal record as an adult, “in a short time period.” Referring to his criminal record, Papalardo said Ruggs has an open case in Lowell District Court of armed robbery with a knife. Papalardo asked that Ruggs’ bail be revoked on the open case, and that he be held on $7,500 cash bail.

Judge Patricia Dowling revoked Ruggs’ bail on the armed robbery case and ordered Ruggs held on an additional $1,000 cash bail. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Dec. 17 in Haverhill court. Ruggs was represented at his arraignment by defense lawyer Erich Vogt.

According to a police report, at about 8 a.m. Wednesday, Patrolman Daniel McDonald was parked next to GAR Park monitoring southbound traffic on Main Street when he saw a gray sedan and a black SUV stopped in heavy traffic. The officer said the two drivers were yelling at each other and that the SUV driver was using his cell phone.

When the light turned green, the gray car sped past two other vehicles then turned onto Water Street. McDonald said in his report that the driver of the SUV was beeping his horn and waving at McDonald to get his attention. McDonald said the gray sedan and the SUV drove down Water Street, and he headed down Ginty Boulevard to try to intercept them.

McDonald said that as passed Haverhill Distrtict Court, the sedan and SUV were driving west and turned onto Stage Street, a short street near the court that connects Ginty Boulevard with Summer Street. McDonald followed the two vehicles onto Bartlett Avenue, where the SUV stopped and the driver told him about the near miss at a nearby bus stop.

The SUV driver said his vehicle had been sideswiped by the gray Infiniti in heavy traffic on Main Street and that the driver was operating so erratically that people had to pull to the shoulders of the road to get out of his way.

The SUV driver said that at one point, some children were at a bus stop and he drove his SUV into an adjacent traffic lane so they would not be struck by the Infiniti.

The man described the driver of the Infiniti as about 20 years old and wearing a black sweatshirt.

McDonald wrote in his report that he found the Infiniti parked on Bartlett Street with the driver’s door open and its parking lights on.

McDonald learned the car was registered in Lawrence and had been stolen. McDonald called for backup, and several minutes later a man matching the description given to him by the SUV driver emerged from behind a home on Bartlett Avenue.

“I ordered him to stop but he looked at me and ran off,” McDonald wrote in his report, adding that a foot chase ensued and the man tried to scale a chain link fence, but fell to the ground.

McDonald again ordered him to stop, but the man got up and continued running. McDonald said he caught up with the man and tackled him to the ground. A struggle ensued.

“The suspect flailed his arms and tried to get back up,” McDonald wrote in his report.

With help from another officer, McDonald subdued the man and placed him under arrest.

The driver of the SUV identified the man as the person who sideswiped him in traffic and nearly drove into the children, police said.

The man identified himself as Jason Ruggs, according to McDonald’s report. McDonald said he found the key to the Infiniti in Ruggs’ pocket.

While booking Ruggs at the police station, McDonald learned there was an outstanding warrant for Ruggs from Lowell District Court for receiving a stolen motor vehicle and that he did not have a licence to drive in Massachusetts, police said. McDonald wrote in his report that an ongoing investigation could result in additional charges.