BANGOR, Maine — The man arrested Friday afternoon after he allegedly carjacked a van and led police on a high-speed chase told police he was on bath salts, according to court documents.
Brian Swett, a 31-year-old transient, is charged with two counts of robbery, theft, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, burglary to a motor vehicle, operating without a license, criminal speeding and driving to endanger.
He told police he had used bath salts before stealing the van but refused to discuss Friday’s events further, according to the court documents.
Swett, who had been staying at the Hope House, a homeless shelter in Bangor, made his first court appearance Monday afternoon at the Penobscot Judicial Center on the charges. He did not enter pleas.
Superior Court Justice Ann Murray set bail at $15,000 cash or $100,000 surety. Through his court-appointed attorney, Aaron Frey of Bangor, Swett said it was unlikely he could make such a high bail.
Swett’s next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 9.
One of the robbery counts against Swett has to do with an incident early Friday morning, according to Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards.
About 13 hours before the carjacking, at 2 a.m. Friday, police were dispatched to the intersection of Garland and Pine streets for a report of a woman being pinned to the ground by three men, Edwards said.
Officer Mike Brennan and several units arrived at the scene and found a woman who reported Swett had taken her cellphone and assaulted her when she made chase.
“She reported that he ducked around a corner. When she went around the corner, he kicked her, knocked her to the ground and then kicked her several times while she was down on the ground, and again took off running,” Edwards said.
Police located Swett later in the day after the carjacking.
Swett allegedly broke into a car on Harlow Street, setting off the car alarm and stealing a purse, at about 3:10 p.m. and was hitting vehicle windows in the Abbott Square parking area, apparently trying to break the windows to 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 Sgt. Jim Buckley, who said Swett’s clothing matched that description when he was arrested.
Swett was gone by the time police arrived, but they found the purse on the bank of the Kenduskeag Stream in the area behind the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building.
“It was all recovered and given back to the owner,” Buckley said.
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 approached the woman, who was sitting in her vehicle, and told her she was being robbed, Bishop said. The woman stepped out and Swett allegedly drove off in her gold Chrysler van with her dog in the back.
Minutes later, Maine State Police Trooper Kyle Ouellette, who was traveling south on Interstate 95, saw a vehicle matching the description of the stolen van being driven 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 attempted to elude police by driving up the exit into oncoming traffic.
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 was arrested about 3:40 p.m.
Brennan later interviewed Swett at the Penobscot County Jail and charged him with Class B robbery for stealing the woman’s cellphone by force, Edwards said.
The owner of the van is seeking $295 in restitution from Swett — $175 to pay for towing her vehicle from the crash scene and $120 in cash she said was missing from her van, according to court documents.
The puppy that was in the van when it was stolen was returned safely to the owner, police said.
If convicted of Class B robbery, Swett could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.
Swett remained Monday night at the Penobscot County Jail on a probation hold. After his arrest Friday, Swett told police he was on probation for trafficking heroin.
Information about what led to that conviction was not available Monday.
BDN reporter Nick McCrea contributed to this story.