Bill Gorga of East Marion, sprang into action after a man carjacked a vehicle in Greenport Tuesday with a 14-month-old child inside. Gorga along with the baby's grandmother chased the thief westbound on Main Road, before the police were called and apprehended the suspect.  Credit: Newsday/Steve Post

A Holtsville man, released from jail in Yaphank five months ago, carjacked a vehicle in Greenport Tuesday with a 14-month-old child inside and was captured after a harrowing chase involving the toddler's grandmother, a good Samaritan and Southold police, authorities said.

The chase ended when Paul Ludeman, 55, the alleged carjacker, lost control of the stolen Mercedes-Benz SUV on westbound Route 25/Main Road, crashing into a guardrail and coming to a stop on the property of Southold American Legion Post 803, police said.

The child's grandmother, the SUV's driver before it was stolen, and the child were uninjured and out of the vehicle when it crashed, authorities said.

“Thank God it ended on a sharp curve,” Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said Wednesday. “The fact that [Ludeman] made it through Southold Village at the kind of speed he was doing, going through a red light, with people crossing the street there, just before school was due to let out, all without hitting anybody … I see how it could have worked out so much worse than how it ended.”

Ludeman, who was uninjured in the crash, was charged with third-degree grand larceny, aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle under Leandra’s Law, and other offenses.

They include unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, driving while intoxicated, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, fleeing an officer in a motor vehicle, use of a vehicle without an interlock device, reckless driving and acting in a manner injurious to a child.

He was arraigned Wednesday in Southold Town Justice Court, where he pleaded not guilty to all charges and was held without bail and his license suspended. An order of protection was issued for the grandmother and child.

The Legal Aid Society, which represented Ludeman at his arraignment, did not respond to a request for comment. He is due back Friday in Suffolk County Court,  where a judge will review his bail status.

Records show that Ludeman has previous convictions for grand larceny and driving while intoxicated and was released from jail in September after an  8-month sentence for second-degree criminal contempt.

Police said the recent incident began shortly after 2 p.m. when the grandmother, whose identity was not released, stopped the SUV on Front Street to run into a store — leaving her grandchild, asleep and secured in the vehicle.

“I think she thought she locked the car,” Flatley said. “But she comes out just as the vehicle is driving off — and that’s when the good Samaritan gets involved.”

While police have not released the identity of the good Samaritan, Newsday confirmed it was Bill Gorga, 68, of East Marion.

Gorga said he was seated in his Ford Ranger pickup when he saw the grandmother come out of the store and begin screaming.

"She freaked out and I thought someone got run over by a car," the retired marine engineer said. "She said, 'That's my car — and someone just drove off with the baby in the car!' I told her, 'Get in. We're gonna catch this guy.'"

Gorga and the grandmother gave chase westbound on Main Road, managing to force the Mercedes onto the shoulder near Moore’s Lane, about a half-mile from where it was stolen, police said.

The grandmother got out of the pickup and ran into the Mercedes to free her grandchild, Gorga said. But Ludeman drove off again, this time with two passengers in the vehicle, police said.

"I wanted to cry," Gorga said, "because I said to myself, 'Why the hell did you just let that happen?'"

Gorga resumed his pursuit, eventually forcing the SUV to stop near Silvermere Road, where Ludeman released the grandmother and child and continued west, police said.

"I tried so hard to not have the two vehicles hit each other so this guy didn't freak out," Gorga said. "I wanted him to stay calm, but I was concerned because I had him pinned against a fence and I didn't want to pin him too hard, because she ended up behind the vehicle and I didn't want him to back up with her there with the baby. So then I just let him go — and called 911."

Southold police located the SUV near Town Harbor Lane traveling at speeds of up to 70 mph, Flatley said. A short pursuit ended when Ludeman crashed and was arrested.

Flatley said Gorga did not know the victim. “I think this good Samaritan saw what was going on and just decided to get involved,” he said.

 A friend who owns a liquor store on Front Street, near where the carjacking occurred, told Gorga the incident was captured on surveillance video.

"I told my friend, 'That whole thing took like 45 minutes,'" Gorga said. "[The friend] told me, 'No, it was like three minutes.' It turned out the time stamp said it started at something like 1:59 p.m. — and I called 911 at 2:03. It seemed like forever, but it was over in the blink of an eye."

A Holtsville man, released from jail in Yaphank five months ago, carjacked a vehicle in Greenport Tuesday with a 14-month-old child inside and was captured after a harrowing chase involving the toddler's grandmother, a good Samaritan and Southold police, authorities said.

The chase ended when Paul Ludeman, 55, the alleged carjacker, lost control of the stolen Mercedes-Benz SUV on westbound Route 25/Main Road, crashing into a guardrail and coming to a stop on the property of Southold American Legion Post 803, police said.

The child's grandmother, the SUV's driver before it was stolen, and the child were uninjured and out of the vehicle when it crashed, authorities said.

“Thank God it ended on a sharp curve,” Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said Wednesday. “The fact that [Ludeman] made it through Southold Village at the kind of speed he was doing, going through a red light, with people crossing the street there, just before school was due to let out, all without hitting anybody … I see how it could have worked out so much worse than how it ended.”

Ludeman, who was uninjured in the crash, was charged with third-degree grand larceny, aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle under Leandra’s Law, and other offenses.

They include unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, driving while intoxicated, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, fleeing an officer in a motor vehicle, use of a vehicle without an interlock device, reckless driving and acting in a manner injurious to a child.

He was arraigned Wednesday in Southold Town Justice Court, where he pleaded not guilty to all charges and was held without bail and his license suspended. An order of protection was issued for the grandmother and child.

The Legal Aid Society, which represented Ludeman at his arraignment, did not respond to a request for comment. He is due back Friday in Suffolk County Court,  where a judge will review his bail status.

Records show that Ludeman has previous convictions for grand larceny and driving while intoxicated and was released from jail in September after an  8-month sentence for second-degree criminal contempt.

Police said the recent incident began shortly after 2 p.m. when the grandmother, whose identity was not released, stopped the SUV on Front Street to run into a store — leaving her grandchild, asleep and secured in the vehicle.

“I think she thought she locked the car,” Flatley said. “But she comes out just as the vehicle is driving off — and that’s when the good Samaritan gets involved.”

While police have not released the identity of the good Samaritan, Newsday confirmed it was Bill Gorga, 68, of East Marion.

Gorga said he was seated in his Ford Ranger pickup when he saw the grandmother come out of the store and begin screaming.

"She freaked out and I thought someone got run over by a car," the retired marine engineer said. "She said, 'That's my car — and someone just drove off with the baby in the car!' I told her, 'Get in. We're gonna catch this guy.'"

Gorga and the grandmother gave chase westbound on Main Road, managing to force the Mercedes onto the shoulder near Moore’s Lane, about a half-mile from where it was stolen, police said.

The grandmother got out of the pickup and ran into the Mercedes to free her grandchild, Gorga said. But Ludeman drove off again, this time with two passengers in the vehicle, police said.

"I wanted to cry," Gorga said, "because I said to myself, 'Why the hell did you just let that happen?'"

Gorga resumed his pursuit, eventually forcing the SUV to stop near Silvermere Road, where Ludeman released the grandmother and child and continued west, police said.

"I tried so hard to not have the two vehicles hit each other so this guy didn't freak out," Gorga said. "I wanted him to stay calm, but I was concerned because I had him pinned against a fence and I didn't want to pin him too hard, because she ended up behind the vehicle and I didn't want him to back up with her there with the baby. So then I just let him go — and called 911."

Southold police located the SUV near Town Harbor Lane traveling at speeds of up to 70 mph, Flatley said. A short pursuit ended when Ludeman crashed and was arrested.

Flatley said Gorga did not know the victim. “I think this good Samaritan saw what was going on and just decided to get involved,” he said.

 A friend who owns a liquor store on Front Street, near where the carjacking occurred, told Gorga the incident was captured on surveillance video.

"I told my friend, 'That whole thing took like 45 minutes,'" Gorga said. "[The friend] told me, 'No, it was like three minutes.' It turned out the time stamp said it started at something like 1:59 p.m. — and I called 911 at 2:03. It seemed like forever, but it was over in the blink of an eye."

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

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