Handcuffed Houdini allegedly steals cop car and damages it

BOSTON HERALD February 16, 2001
By JOSE MARTINEZ


Boston police say a limber mechanic with a knack for door locks
and break-ins freed himself from a cruiser's back seat, sat 
himself behind the steering wheel and sped off early yesterday - 
all while still handcuffed.

"It's difficult to get handcuffed hands from behind you to in 
front of you. You have to be fairly flexible to do that," said 
Boston police spokeswoman Mariellen Burns.

Louis Steriti, 34, of Maiden was cuffed and locked in the back
seat of a patrol car about 5 a.m., roughly an hour after someone 
matching his description had smashed the glass door to the White 
Hen Pantry in the North End with a brick and made off with the 
cash drawers from two registers.

But the break-in was a bust and the bandit absconded with nothing
more than two empty drawers while getting himself caught on videotape 
by the store's surveillance camera. 

"He got nothing. Not a nickel," store owner Dan Costa said.
Steriti, suspected in a similar smash and grab at Kristina's Market
in Medford just after midnight, was pulled over in his silver Ford
coupe outside the Transportation Building after one officer recog-
nized him and the car from a description broadcast over the radio,
Burns said.

About two minutes after the officer cuffed the suspect and sat him
in the back seat of the brand new 2001 Crown Victoria, Steriti 
allegedly freed himself from the back seat and slipped into the driver's
seat for a short-lived getaway. At the time two officers were ques-
tioning another man who turned out to have nothing to do with the
case.

Steriti was arrested several hours later in Malden. The patrol car 
was recovered in Somerville, with a blown tire and a wrecked rear door.

"The guy told the officers he was a mechanic and he could get 
out of any car," Burns said, explaining how the man had broken 
through the panel of the rear door and defeated the mechanism 
that is supposed to render the door unopenable from the inside.

Steriti who has a  rap sheet loaded with convictions for larceny,
assaults and other crimes dating back to 1983, was ordered
held on $5,000 cash bail on charges of breaking and entering
at night, larceny from a building, larceny of a motor vehicle,
two counts of malicious destruction of property and driving 
without a license. He returns to Boston Municipal Court March 5
for a pretrial conference.

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