A 9-year-old boy was among the potential robbery victims who fought off a man as he tried to steal several vehicles during a chaotic series of incidents in Old Orchard Beach and Saco on Wednesday, according to police.
The man did succeed in stealing one car, but was arrested in Wells soon after, police said.
Old Orchard Beach police say the incidents began there at 4:09 p.m., when an attempted robbery was reported at a home on Saco Avenue. A man had knocked on the door, then forced his way into the home and taken keys belonging to the homeowner, police said.
A 9-year-old boy who was in the home struggled with the intruder and stopped him from stealing the vehicle, said Capt. David Hemingway of the Old Orchard Beach Police Department.
“The subject knocked on the door and forced his way in,” Hemingway said. “The boy then confronted the subject outside, so he wasn’t able to take the vehicle.”
Hemingway declined to identify the boy.
The intruder ran away and is suspected of assaulting another “male subject” minutes later on Evergreen Avenue as he tried to steal a motor scooter, according to police. He was unable to get the scooter and ran off.
Police said the same man then confronted a man and a woman at a home on Atlantic Avenue. He took their keys and fled in their car, identified as a Toyota Avalon.
But when he got to neighboring Saco, the man apparently decided he wanted a different car, police said.
Saco police said in a news release that they responded around 4:21 p.m. to a report of a fight in the road at 769 Portland Road, the location of the Patriot Subaru auto dealership.
When Saco police arrived, the driver of a Mercedes Benz told officers that the suspect, later identified as Jeffrey T. Lavery, had cut him off in traffic and forced him from the car. Lavery got into the vehicle, but the driver then pulled him back out of it, according to police.
Lavery then ran back to the car he had stolen in Old Orchard and fled, police said.
News Center Maine posted a video that showed a man fighting with the driver of a black Mercedes in front of the car dealership. After the men fought for a short time, the attacker ran off and drove away in the Avalon.
Lavery, 34, of Harrisville, New Hampshire, was later arrested in Wells by local police.
While police don’t recommend confronting criminals in the act, Hemingway said he understood why several people fought back Wednesday.
“It’s human nature,” Hemingway said. “We wouldn’t encourage confrontation. You never know what a perpetrator’s mindset is. But at times like this, it’s understandable that your instinct may be to fight back.”
Lavery has been charged with robbery and is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 24, according to Saco police. Old Orchard Beach police say Lavery was charged with two counts of Class A robbery and one charge of unauthorized use of a vehicle in connection with the incidents there.
Police say the incidents remain under investigation and more charges are anticipated.
Lavery is being held in the York County Jail pending an initial court appearance.