BATH, Maine — A Brunswick man is in police custody at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick after being arrested Sunday on a slew of charges related to the theft of two motor vehicles and driving them recklessly through the city.
Matthew S. Gaspar, 23, of Brunswick, has been arrested twice in the past few months for similar charges, according to Bath police Lt. Stan Cielinski and a previous article in the Bangor Daily News.
Bath Police Sgt. Michael Lathrop was fueling his cruiser at the Bath Public Works facility on Oak Grove Avenue about 4 a.m. Sunday when he heard an engine revving and tires squealing. According to a Bath Police Department press release, Lathrop saw a dark-colored pickup truck streak past his location. Lathrop gave chase but was unable to find Gaspar immediately because of the suspect’s head start but was able to track him based on plumes of smoke allegedly caused by Gaspar spinning his wheels at several intersections.
Lathrop caught up to the pickup on Denny Road and put on his flashing lights and sirens, but the pickup sped away. The officer followed the truck back to Oak Grove Avenue and onto Judkins Avenue, and then onto Old Brunswick Road, where the pickup knocked over a traffic sign and left tire tracks across the lawn at Bath Middle School. A short distance later, Lathrop found the truck crashed and empty near a railroad trestle and sharp curve known as Blinds Crossing. The 1990 Chevy pickup sustained severe damage. Additional officers, including Sagadahoc County Deputies Mark Anderson and Todd Bayha, arrived at the scene to assist with the search for the driver.
Anderson drove down nearby Creekside Drive and found a white pickup near a residence with its headlights on and facing in the deputy’s direction. Anderson exited his cruiser and yelled for the driver to stop but the pickup lurched toward the cruiser with its engine revving. Cielinski said the vehicle’s windows were still covered with frost so it was obvious that it had just been started. The truck stopped about 50 feet from Anderson, whose cruiser was blocking the road.
“We don’t know what his intentions were at that point,” said Cielinski. “He just decided to bail and run.”
According to the press release, Gaspar jumped from the driver’s seat and attempted to flee on foot, but was tackled by Anderson and taken into custody with the help of other officers. Cielinski said a police canine named Keylo, handled by Bath Patrol Officer Michelle Small, was able to follow a scent track from the first pickup to the second, which linked Gaspar to the theft of both.
At the Bath Police Department, Gaspar was observed to be “heavily under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol,” according to the press release. He was so intoxicated that officers were unable to perform a blood-alcohol test on him, the release said.
“He was beginning to become unconscious so the officers called a rescue vehicle to take him to the hospital,” said Cielinski. Gaspar was also complaining of neck pain, presumably from when he crashed the first pickup truck.
As of Monday morning, Gaspar was still in custody at Mid Coast Hospital but Cielinski said he expected him to be released to Two Bridges Regional Jail later in the day.
The owner of the first truck told police that the ignition in it was broken previously and that it could be started without a key. The second truck likely had its keys in the ignition, though Cielinski said officers involved in the incident were still compiling police reports. Gaspar did not know the owner of either of the trucks.
“We think he’s just out looking for cars with keys in them,” said Cielinski. “We encourage people to secure their vehicles, especially when we’re coming into the holidays. We always have a number of car breaks this time of year.”
In relation to the first pickup, Gaspar was charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, driving to endanger, failure to stop for a law enforcement officer, criminal mischief, operating a vehicle with a suspended license and violations of conditions of release. Cielinski was he was unsure what the bail conditions stemmed from.
For allegedly attempting to take the second vehicle, Gaspar was charged by Anderson with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, operating under the influence, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, refusing to submit to arrest and violation of bail conditions.
Gaspar was given a Dec. 20 court date in West Bath District court and his bail was set at $10,000 cash.
According to an Aug. 23 article in the Bangor Daily News, which originated from The Times Record in Brunswick, Gaspar was arrested twice in August for stealing cars in Phippsburg and Brunswick.