By Mike LaBella
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Keith Leavitt sat quietly and nearly motionless in a wheelchair that wasn’t his own. He leaned slightly to the left during court proceedings yesterday, his arms and shoulders covered in jackets to keep warm.
When asked to sign a court document, he appeared to struggle to raise his arms from his lap and hold them in a comfortable position long enough to write his signature.
Police allege that on Tuesday evening, Leavitt, 30, a paraplegic since a car accident four years ago, pointed a revolver at a woman’s minivan in the parking lot of his Haverhill apartment building at 1 Water St. and fired five or six rounds into it, shattering the rear window.
Police said the assault appeared to be the result of an argument over narcotics between him and a woman from Manchester, N.H.
Leavitt was arraigned yesterday in Newburyport District Court because the building is accessible to the handicapped and Haverhill District Court is not.
He is charged with two counts of possession of a firearm without a license, possession of ammunition without a license, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling and assault with intent to murder.
His defense lawyer, Michael Baldassarre of Salisbury, said Leavitt is the victim in this case.
Baldassarre said two women went to Leavitt’s apartment to steal his legally prescribed medications then made up a story to cover their actions. He said the women waited a day after the alleged shooting to notify police in Manchester, N.H., who then notified police in Haverhill.
“They say this was an argument over a cell phone yet they admit that they’re going there to get drugs,” Baldassarre said. “Every drug you heard mentioned was legally prescribed to this man who can hardly move... I hardly think that he was mobile enough to chase people out of his apartment, go down into a parking lot and start firing off guns.”
“It just doesn’t seem logical,” Baldassarre said.
Baldassarre argued for Leavitt’s release on personal recognize with stipulations, saying he is not a danger to the victims, that he can’t drive and that he’s “basically stuck in his apartment.”
But, Judge Peter Doyle found probable cause to hold Leavitt without bail, noting he was also being held on a probation violation out of Lawrence District Court, about which he did not elaborate.
Leavitt was ordered held at the Middleton Jail pending a dangerousness hearing scheduled for Dec. 18.
According to police, they were called to Leavitt’s apartment on Tuesday for a report of stolen medication.
Leavitt told police that a woman he knows called him earlier in the day to visit and that after she arrived he went to the bathroom. He said that while he was in the bathroom the woman went into bedroom and stole bottles of medications, including Methadone, Oxycontine, Hydrocodone.
Police said no one had reported gunshots to them until they were contacted by police in Manchester early Wednesday morning.
According to Haverhill police spokesman Detective Lt. Robert Pistone, on Wednesday at approximately 1:30 a.m., police in Manchester contacted Haverhill Police to say a Manchester woman reported that on Tuesday at approximately 8:30 p.m. her minivan was outside of 1 Water St. when it was fired upon by a man described as Keith Leavitt. Police said Leavitt was in his wheelchair in a parking lot next to his apartment building when he allegedly shot at the vehicle.
The rear window of the minivan was shot out and a projectile from the discharged firearm was lodged in the vehicle, police said.
Haverhill detectives went to Manchester to interview the woman.
On Wednesday at about 12:30 p.m., the Haverhill Police Detective Unit with the assistance of the North East Law Enforcement Council SWAT Team went to Leavitt’s apartment with a search warrant and he was arrested.
According to a police, the search yielded two revolvers and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, as well as various prescription medications in Leavitt’s name, including a bottle of Methadone filled on Dec. 9. It was for 300 10mg pills, with 20 remaining in the bottle. There were also several bottles of Diazepam and Oxycodone. Police said they also found a scale and several “cutting” agents.
Pistone called it a a high risk search warrant entry during which two illegal guns were taken off the street as well as hundreds of rounds of ammunition within hours of the alleged crime being reported.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Brier noted that during the search, police asked Leavitt if he had any guns or weapons and he said he did not. Brier said that even after police found one gun and asked Leavitt if had any more, Leavitt again claimed he did not.
According to a police report, the woman who had called Leavitt to visit brought a female friend with her and while in Leavitt’s apartment there was an argument over a cell phone. The woman said her friend left the apartment and waited in her minivan, and five minutes later she left and Leavitt went with her. The woman said there was another disagreement at the minivan and that Leavitt took out a gun and shot at them.
When interviewed by Haverhill police, the woman said she knew Leavitt from past drug transactions.
The woman told police that after she and Leavitt left the apartment, they went downstairs into the parking lot. She said her friend was in the driver’s seat of her minivan and when she tried to climb into the passenger’s seat, Leavitt held the door open and continued to accuse the woman’s friend of trying to steal his cell phone, according to the report.
The woman said that as they began driving away, Leavitt retrieved a gun from the backpack attached to his wheelchair and began shooting at the vehicle. The woman told police that when she arrived home she was too scared to call police. She said she received a phone call from Leavitt, which she did not answer, then received a call from an unknown number. The woman said the caller was a man who said she was lucky and that “next time the bullets won’t miss.” The woman said the caller also stated that “he will find out where she lives and will get her.”
During the search of Leavitt’s apartment, police arrested Ryan Michael Burrill, 35, of 48 Lowell Ave., and charged him with disorderly conduct, first offense. Police said he became belligerent towards SWAT members .
Burrill was arraigned on the charges on Wednesday in Haverhill District Court, where Judge Patricia Dowling released him on personal recognizance. A pretrial hearing was scheduled for Jan. 2.
Following yesterday’s hearing, Leavitt asked court officials to help him find a temporary home for his dog. He also asked if they could obtain his wheelchair, which was being held at the Haverhill Police Department.