Rescuer tells of harrowing escape

By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / February 25, 2010

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One of the women credited with the rescue of a carjacking victim in downtown Boston on Monday said the drama unfolded so quickly there was no time to think.

“I’m just glad the lady’s OK. It was just a scary situation,’’ Melinda LaSante said yesterday. “All three of us could have gotten shot; we didn’t know what to do.’’

LaSante, 33, and Jennifer Beza, 29, both of California, were in the area to attend a funeral in Vermont and were scheduled to leave Monday afternoon. When they were leaving the Dock Square garage at about 1 p.m. - they had visited the nearby Hard Rock Café before heading to the airport - they came around a corner and saw a hulking man approach a vehicle as the woman was getting out.

“He literally walked right up to her at the front door,’’ LaSante said.

The woman started to scream, and LaSante noticed through her rearview mirror that the man was pointing a gun. She put the car in reverse. The woman who was getting carjacked threw the keys. And as the man went to pick them up, LaSante opened the door of her rental car, a Suzuki Forenza.

LaSante yelled, “Listen lady, get in the car, I’m trying to help you.’’

The victim, 31, of Arlington, was frantic, but LaSante and Beza settled her down.

They drove toward the garage exit, and the man started up the woman’s Acura sport utility vehicle and started following them.

When they got to the exit gate, they yelled to the cashier “He’s got a gun,’’ but the cashier told them she couldn’t open the gate unless they had a ticket.

LaSante found the ticket and they went through.

The man came barreling out of the parking lot, running over a cone, crashing through a gate, and taking off toward Commercial Street. After calling 911, LaSante stopped the car to let the carjacking victim out, so that police could find her.

LaSante tried to follow the SUV, so she could point officers in the right direction. By then, the man had weaved in and out of traffic, through stoplights and stop signs.

LaSante did drive past the place where the man had ended up. He crashed into a tree on Commercial Street.

Police said the man tried to walk away but was arrested without further incident. Authorities identified him as Michael Fitzpatrick, 52, of Malden, who has been convicted 16 times in Massachusetts. Police said they found a gun in his possession.

Fitzpatrick was arraigned in Boston Municipal Court on Tuesday on carjacking, firearms, and other charges, and he was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail. He also was facing outstanding charges, including assault.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said Tuesday that the incident was testimony to the work of good Samaritans. LaSante said that she was thankful for the kind words but that she had done what she hoped anyone would do.

“There’s not all bad people out there,’’ she said. “I tried to help as best as I can. With a situation like that, you don’t know what you’re going to do until it happens.’’

She feels bad only about fleeing through the cashier’s gate at the parking garage without paying.

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