Woman, 19, fights off man in carjacking

Posted Dec. 30, 2009, at 9:14 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:48 a.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — A young woman from Portland fought off a carjacker who had just escaped from a courtroom Wednesday afternoon and forced him to abandon his attempt to steal the car, police said. The man was captured a short time later.

Hannah Leeman, 19, was seated in the passenger seat of a vehicle parked on Main Street when Thomas Sawyer, 42, of Brooklin, hopped into the driver’s seat and threatened to kill her if she didn’t get out, according to Deputy Jeff McFarland of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department.

Leeman did not get out, but stayed in the vehicle and battled Sawyer as he drove off.

“He told her to get out of the car or he would kill her,” McFarland said. “She didn’t get out. She fought him off. She was punching him and kicking him. She beat him all the way up Bridge Hill.”

Sawyer has had a string of encounters with law enforcement, according to Lt. Patrick Kane of the sheriff’s department, and had been arrested Dec. 27 on charges of violation of probation and violation of a protective order. He had been brought to the Hancock County Court House from the county jail Wednesday afternoon.

Officers were just beginning their investigation late Wednesday afternoon and details of the escape were not available.

Sawyer bolted from the courtroom and headed toward Main Street, where he found the vehicle with the keys and Leeman in it, according to Kane. Leeman had been visiting the area and was waiting for a friend to come out of a store.

Sawyer jumped into the driver’s side of the car, started the car and, when Leeman refused to get out, drove off, heading up Bridge Hill toward Surry.

Faced with the onslaught from Leeman, Sawyer stopped the vehicle near the Black House on Route 172 and again ordered the young woman out of the car, McFarland said. With the vehicle stopped, however, Leeman turned off the engine and pulled the keys from the ignition. Still being pummeled by Leeman, Sawyer got out of the car and started walking toward Surry. Leeman called the police.

Kane, McFarland and Ellsworth police Officer Chris Smith were at the sheriff’s office when Sawyer’s escape from the courthouse was first reported at about 2:15 p.m. They began the search for Sawyer and were joined by several other Ellsworth officers.

McFarland said he was at the intersection of Main and State streets when Leeman’s call came in, “so I headed out there. Chris [Smith] was right behind me. I caught up with Sawyer near Ben’s Store. When I pulled up, he took off running. Chris and I tackled him in the ditch.”

Leeman was not injured during the incident.

Sawyer, whose freedom lasted for all of 10 minutes, will face charges of escape and robbery in connection with the theft of the vehicle, police said.

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