Police are serious about enforcing distracted driving laws. | File photo
August 21, 2014 10:25AM
By ELLYN SANTIAGO
Sun Staff Writer
WESTERLY — Police are still adding up the charges against a Westerly man who took officers on a wild, high-speed daytime chase Monday that wound its way from Granite Street to Misquamicut, heavily populated with beach-goers, into Dunn’s Corners and finally, into Bradford.
The police said the man, Leonard D. Harrington, 43, drove at speeds in excess of 70 mph in residential neighborhoods as he passed cars on the left, drove across yellow lines and blew through stop signs and stoplights.
The officers finally stopped and arrested Harrington, who has a decades-long police record, when he lost control of the car on a Nina Drive front lawn, and jumped out while the car was still running and spinning out of control. He took off on foot and was captured by police within seconds, but initially refused to be handcuffed, according to the police report.
Police said Tuesday that Harrington, whose current address is listed as 59 Granite St., Apt. 9, is facing four separate charges — with vandalism and property damage charges to follow — stemming from the chase that began just before 2 p.m. near Granite Street and East Avenue and ended at Nina Drive near McGowan Corners off Route 91.
According to the report filed by Westerly Patrolman Matthew A. John, “numerous times the vehicle nearly lost control as it traveled at a high rate of speed around corners with me behind it with my lights and sirens activated.”
John wrote that Harrington “blew through a stop sign (at Watch Hill Road) causing vehicles to swerve to the left and right to avoid a collision.” John alerted dispatch that he was pursuing Harrington, who he knew had a suspended license. John said he also suspected that Harrington may have been driving under the influence based on his erratic driving. Officers nearby were dispatched.
When Harrington approached the “sharp corner of Avondale Road” the vehicle again nearly went out of control. He turned left onto West Ridge Road, driving erratically and at high speed through a residential neighborhood, the patrolman’s report says. Harrington continued to flee police traveling on Glen Way and Ridge Road. By the time he reached the intersection of Ridge and Watch Hill roads, two other police cruisers had joined the pursuit.
John wrote that Harrington showed no signs of slowing down and “continued to drive erratically passing vehicles on the left, crossing into the opposite lane of travel, and driving at a high rate of speed.” Harrington made a right turn onto Shore Road, then turned onto Crandall Avenue at nearly three times the posted 25 speed limit. When he got to the intersection of Crandall and Atlantic avenues, he again nearly lost control of the car. While in Misquamicut, he continued to outrun the police, racing and weaving in and out of the residential neighborhood with children and beach-goers everywhere.
He raced up to Shore Road, again at a high rate of speed, which John had previously clocked at nearly 70 mph, and again passing vehicles on the left. Harrington ran a red light at Langworthy Road and blew through the busy intersection of Route 1 and Dunn’s Corners Road. At McGowan Corners he once again “blew through a stop sign,” made a left turn down Nina Drive, turned left in the cul-de-sac there, went up on a lawn, lost control of the car and bailed, taking off on foot and then being tackled by officers.
No one was injured throughout the chase but the car caused more than $3,000 worth of damage to the lawn, trees and lamppost on the Nina Drive property. The police said the car belonged to Harrington’s girlfriend.
Harrington was charged with reckless driving, eluding police officers in high-speed pursuit, resisting arrest and driving with a suspended license. Property damage and vandalism charges are pending.
Harrington’s criminal record dates back to 1991. Court records in Rhode Island and Connecticut show that he has been arrested dozens of times and has pleaded guilty or no contest on more than a dozen occasions. It appears from the records that the crimes were classified as nonviolent, and in nearly every case the prison sentences were suspended.
Thus, for a 1997 robbery conviction, he was sentenced to 10 years but served only a year, the balance being suspended.
Harrington, who also goes by Danny Harrington (his middle name) was 21 in 1992 when he pleaded on a North Kingstown charge of driving a stolen car. Also in 1992 he pleaded out on a Westerly charge of shoplifting. Before he was 25, he’d been charged with myriad crimes ranging from violation of probation to disorderly conduct to breaking and entering.
In 1998, he pleaded no contest to driving under the influence and in a separate case that year, he pleaded no contest to receiving stolen goods.
In 1999, he again pleaded to obstructing a Hopkinton police officer and that same year, offered a no contest plea on a Westerly police case of domestic disorderly conduct.
By the year 2000, Harrington, at age 30, had been charged on at least 20 occasions by area police. In 2002, he pleaded no contest to driving a stolen car. In 2005 he pleaded guilty to receiving stolen goods and conspiracy, and in 2006, he pleaded nolo contendere (he doesn’t admit guilt but agrees there may be enough evidence to convict) to committing first-degree robbery.
Between 2007 and 2010 he was in state prison.
The day after Christmas in 2011, Stonington police arrested Harrington; in that case he was charged the next month with burglary, larceny and criminal mischief. In 2012, he again pleaded no contest to a Westerly police charge of attempted breaking and entering and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. But as in his earlier cases, a significant portion of that sentence was suspended.
In May of this year, the Rhode Island State Police detectives charged Harrington with receiving stolen goods and conspiracy, both felonies. He was released from custody in June on personal recognizance.