LYNN — A 30-year-old Lynn man was arraigned on Monday after allegedly carjacking a man’s vehicle and driving off with a baby inside and the child’s father hanging out of the window trying to stop the crime.
Jonathan Leighton was arrested on Friday and charged with carjacking, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault with a dangerous weapon, receiving a stolen motor vehicle, failure to stop for police and leaving the scene of property damage.
Leighton pleaded not guilty to the charges in Lynn District Court and was held without bail and was sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for a competency-to-stand-trial evaluation and criminal responsibility evaluation.
The victim’s 1-year-old daughter, who was in a car seat inside the vehicle during the carjacking, was not harmed, Lynn Police Lt. Dave Brown said.
Gary Zerola, Leighton’s defense attorney, told the Item his client suffers from mental illness and mental defect, including schizophrenia, which has been documented for more than a decade.
Six years ago, he said Leighton was involved in a serious car accident and diagnosed with permanent traumatic brain injury, which complicated his mental health issues.
“Today and in the days prior to this incident, he was suffering from auditory and visual hallucinations that were apparent to myself and (the court clinician) who evaluated him today,” Zerola said. “(In) speaking with his family, when he’s clear-minded, he’s a great son and he’s a great father. He actually has an infant himself.”
Zerola said Leighton’s parents and grandparents were in court on Monday and are “incredibly thankful this Good Samaritan and child are unharmed and were devastated to think Jonathan could be involved in this,” but are also happy Leighton will be in a facility to get proper evaluation and treatment.
Lynn Police Sgt. Ned Shinnick was driving shortly before noon when he saw what he thought was a disabled Jeep Cherokee in the middle of Broadway with steam coming from the hood, Brown said.
A Good Samaritan, a 30-year-old Lynn man, had pulled his Chevy Avalanche over on Wyoma Street to help Leighton, the driver of the disabled Jeep, which police learned later was stolen, Brown said.
Shinnick saw Leighton standing at the driver’s door of the Jeep — he was steering as the Good Samaritan pushed the Jeep from behind, but things quickly deteriorated as Leighton allegedly ran over to the Avalanche and attempted to steal it, Brown said.
As Leighton was pulling away, the Good Samaritan dove into the driver’s side window to try to stop the suspect, and was hanging half inside the window as the men struggled for control of the Avalanche, Brown said.
As he pulled away, Leighton struck a Nissan Maxima and Shinnick drove up behind the SUV, before getting out of his unmarked cruiser to approach the car. Leighton then backed up, almost struck the sergeant and crashed into his police car, Brown said.
Shinnick ordered Leighton to stop at gunpoint, while the Good Samaritan, who was still hanging onto the SUV, yelled that his child was inside. Leighton refused to stop and pulled away with the man continuing to cling from outside the car. The suspect finally pulled over in an insurance company parking lot on Broadway, bailed out of the car, and ran away toward the Wyoma Little League Field and Magnolia Park, Brown said.
Backup arrived with Lynn Police Officer Markanthony Williams catching up to Leighton in Magnolia Field and tackling him. Leighton was then taken into custody, Brown said.
“This was a very chaotic and dangerous situation,” Brown said. “Sgt. Ned Shinnick, Officer Markanthony Williams, responding officers and the child’s father did a great job at stopping what could have been a terrible ending.”