BANGOR, Maine — The man arrested Friday after carjacking a van and leading police on a high-speed chase began his crime spree minutes earlier by stealing from a different vehicle, according to police.
Brian Swett, a 31-year-old transient, faces a litany of charges including theft, robbery, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, operating without a license, criminal speeding and driving to endanger.
At 3:10 p.m., about 10 or 15 minutes before the carjacking, an officer was dispatched to 96 Harlow St. to investigate a motor vehicle burglary. Witnesses reported a man had broken into a car, setting off the car alarm before taking something from the vehicle and walking down Franklin Street, Bangor police Sgt. James Buckley said Saturday. Other witnesses reported that the man had been hitting vehicle windows in the Abbott Square parking area, apparently trying to break the windows and gain access to the vehicles.
Witnesses told police the man was wearing a “ratty whitish shirt, blue jean shorts and a dark baseball cap,” according to Buckley, who said Swett’s clothing matched that description when he was arrested.
By the time the responding officer made it to the scene, Swett had made his way farther down Harlow Street, possibly traveling along the Kenduskeag Stream.
Police later found the purse on the bank of the stream in the area behind the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building.
“It was all recovered and given back to the owner,” according to Buckley.
Around 3:25 p.m., police received a call reporting that a woman had been forced from her vehicle while parked on the side of the street outside 262 Harlow St., Bangor police Sgt. Bob Bishop said Friday night.
Swett allegedly approached a woman, who was sitting in her vehicle while it was parked on the street and told her she was being robbed, Bishop said. The woman stepped out and Swett drove off with her gold Chrysler van.
The victim did not know Swett, Bishop said.
Minutes later, Maine State Police Trooper Kyle Ouellette, who was traveling south on I-95, saw a vehicle matching the description of the stolen van driving in the northbound lane.
Ouellette turned and followed the van, which eventually exited the interstate in Orono and then got back on in the southbound lane and headed back toward Bangor.
The trooper attempted to stop the van, but Swett continued to drive, accelerating to nearly 100 mph as the chase approached Bangor, Ouellette said Friday.
When Swett encountered a police roadblock just past the Hogan Road on ramp to I-95 south, he turned into oncoming traffic that was heading down the on ramp in an attempt to elude police.
State police Detective Brian Strout ran into the van’s rear, disabling the fleeing vehicle and knocking off its bumper, according to Ouellette. The van also struck a dark blue Audi that was on the ramp.
Swett then submitted to arrest about 3:40 p.m.
Swett invoked his right to remain silent and did not explain to officers why he allegedly stole the van, Ouellette said. He did not mention the car burglaries from 30 minutes earlier.