WOBURN, MASS. (WHDH) - A man accused of stealing and later crashing an MBTA vehicle with a passenger inside appeared in court Thursday, one day after his arrest in downtown Boston.
As 34-year-old Thomas Baldwin faces new charges, authorities said he had already been in court in Woburn on separate stolen motor vehicle charges hours before the MBTA vehicle incident on Wednesday.
“It appears that he was in court and then either had an episode or something occurred afterwards,” defense attorney George Panas said outside the courthouse on Thursday.
Officials said Baldwin allegedly got into a T RIDE van in a parking lot in Woburn around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday after the vehicle’s driver parked the van and got out to assist a second passenger.
The driver, officials said, left the keys in the van’s ignition to keep the air conditioning running for the passenger still seated inside, who has special needs.
“He stated he was sent to the Stop & Shop to pick up another passenger and, due to the heat yesterday, he left the vehicle running with the keys in it and doors unlocked because of the heat and then from there went inside to get the other passenger,” said prosecutor Olivia Flynn.
Investigators said the van has cameras inside and out showing Baldwin driving toward Boston, hitting other cars and threatening the passenger to get out while also taking her phone and throwing it away.
Once in Boston, police said, Baldwin allegedly jumped out the van’s passenger-side window and ran off in the area of Clinton Street and Surface Road.
Court paperwork said a passerby took pictures of Baldwin running away, soon leading police to a hotel function room where they arrested Baldwin.
7NEWS captured the moment of Baldwin’s arrest after authorities tracked him down.
The MBTA Transit Police Department said the female passenger in the MBTA van that was stolen was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Police said three other vehicles were also damaged, in addition to the MBTA van.
In court Thursday, a court psychologist said Baldwin has a history of mental health problems and was in a psychiatric hospital until he was released to his mother’s home one week ago.
The judge in Baldwin’s case on Thursday ordered Baldwin to undergo a 20-day psychiatric evaluation at Bridgewater State Hospital.
“Due to his current state, he can’t really discuss much with me,” said Panas, the defense attorney.
Separate from court proceedings, MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng was asked if it was the correct protocol for the situation to leave the van running with a passenger inside immediately prior to this incident.
“That investigation is still ongoing and I really don’t want to get ahead of transit police and state police in regards to it, but we will be looking at that,” Eng said.
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