SALEM — The Lawrence man who police say stole an ambulance and led a chase through four North Shore communities on Friday was already facing criminal charges in a Haverhill home invasion in December.
Now, William Guzman Jr., 38, is being held without bail, facing a string of new charges in at least three of the four communities he allegedly sped through after climbing into an unattended ambulance outside the emergency room at Beverly Hospital. The charges include assault and battery on police officers, driving to endanger and leaving the scene of property damage accidents, various traffic offenses in Salem and Swampscott, and breaking and entering in Lynn.
Guzman hid behind a bench and then behind his lawyer during his arraignment yesterday in Salem District Court, where he wore a blood-stained, hooded sweatshirt and a bandage on his forehead. He apparently suffered injuries in the eight accidents he allegedly caused Friday evening.
Guzman's lawyer, William Barabino, and prosecutor A.J. Camelio had already agreed that Guzman would be held without bail prior to his arraignment before Judge Albert Conlon.
Guzman was already facing charges of home invasion stemming from an incident on Corliss Hill Road in Haverhill back in December. Guzman and two other men allegedly entered the home of a plowing contractor who was out working back on Dec. 21. A guest of the homeowner was sleeping upstairs when the intruders attacked him, tied him up and went looking for a safe that they believed contained a large amount of cash.
The houseguest was pistol-whipped as his attackers demanded the location and combination for the safe, which was apparently not in the house.
The intruders took off in the homeowner's Mercedes-Benz, which was found a few days later in Plaistow, N.H. Guzman was arrested and charged on Feb. 11.
Guzman had been free on personal recognizance with the understanding that he would be entering treatment at CAB Health and Recovery Services. On Friday afternoon, Guzman was taken to Beverly Hospital for a medical problem.
That's where, sometime around 5 p.m., police said he spotted the empty Lyons ambulance parked near the emergency room entrance. The owner of the ambulance company has said the keys were in the ambulance, though not in the ignition.
Guzman allegedly hopped behind the wheel and took off.
Lyons employees called police and used GPS to track the ambulance to Rantoul Street, according to a police report.
A supervisor from the ambulance company first spotted the vehicle on Bridge Street in Salem, near the Clipper Ship Inn. Richard Sweeney tried to block the ambulance's path with his own vehicle, but the driver simply backed up, drove around him in the oncoming lane and continued south.
At the intersection of Bridge and Webb streets, the ambulance collided with a 2005 Buick sedan driven by Salem resident Anthony Peruffo, then kept right on going, eventually heading onto Fort Avenue.
That took the ambulance out toward Salem Willows, to Winter Island Road. As police closed in on him, the driver went around a small rotary and guard shack and momentarily became stuck in the snow.
Police got out of their cruisers, anticipating a foot chase, but the driver managed to free himself and drove off, heading directly toward a cruiser where Patrolman Michael Dunn was sitting. He collided head-on with the cruiser and then continued back down Winter Island Road and back onto Fort Avenue.
Hits second cruiser
That's where Patrolman Ryan Davis had tried to block the road just before the sewage treatment plant. The driver, however, veered toward the cruiser, hitting it from behind.
He continued onto Derby Street, traveling the wrong way down the one-way portion of the street, toward downtown Salem. Salem police had called off the chase at that point but were still following, according to the police report. The ambulance struck a parked car on Derby Street, then took a left onto Lafayette Street, colliding with a 2003 Saturn driven by Justin Devoe of Salem.
At Salem State College, the ambulance turned right and followed Loring Avenue into Vinnin Square.
At the intersection of Vinnin Street and Paradise Road, the driver rear-ended a 1998 Toyota Camry driven by Steven Dion of Salem, sending the Camry across the road and into a telephone pole.
The heavily damaged ambulance continued south on Paradise Road, hitting at least two more cars, Sgt. Tim Cassidy of the Swampscott police said, and then into Lynn, still on Route 1A.
The driver, who had used the ambulance's lights at various points during the pursuit, became stuck in traffic and eventually bailed out of the ambulance, then ran behind the Salem Laundry on Lewis Street (part of Route 1A).
A teenage boy who saw Guzman through a peephole in the hallway of his Cherry Street home called his mother, who ran up to police at the scene. Guzman was arrested after a struggle.
He is expected to be arraigned on several additional charges filed by Swampscott and Lynn police today in Lynn District Court.
Lt. Conrad Prosniewski, a Salem police spokesman, said that one of the two cruisers hit in Salem was totaled, and the other was heavily damaged, taking both vehicles off the road at a financially critical time for the city. The cruisers were Dodge Chargers recently purchased by the city.
Guzman is due back in court on the Salem charges March 31. Court papers say he will be held at the Billerica House of Correction.
Staff reporter Mike LaBella contributed to this story.