Year in Review 2023

Year in Review 2023: Greenport carjacking leads to a daring rescue

On Valentine’s Day 2023, Bill Gorga found himself an unexpected hero.

When a local grandmother’s Mercedes was carjacked on Front Street in Greenport with her 14-month-old grandson in the backseat, Mr. Gorga sprang into action. Following a series of harrowing car chases by Mr. Gorga and local police, Paul Ludeman, 55, of Holtsville, was arrested and charged with a long list of felonies.

Mr. Gorga, 68, a retired engineer, had intended to do some shopping on Valentine’s Day ahead of a steak and lobster dinner with his wife, Stepha- nie. Upon entering a local shop he told The Suffolk Times, “a lady started screaming hysterically.

“She runs right past me and I follow her out because I’m thinking there’s been a car accident,” Mr. Gorga said the day after the harrowing incident.

The grandmother, whom local police declined to identify, began screaming, “That car just left with my baby inside!”

Mr. Gorga turned to the woman and reassured her. “’Don’t worry. We’re getting this guy.’” They jumped into his Ford truck and took off.

“I gunned it and put my hand on the horn to draw attention,” he recalled.

Mr. Gorga raced ahead of the Mercedes and forced the car to a stop on the side of the road.

The grandmother leapt out of the truck and jumped into the Mercedes.

“Next thing I know,” Mr. Gorga said, “the guy just pulled around me and took off,” – this time with the grand- mother and the baby in the car.

For a second time, at dangerously- high speeds, Mr. Gorga raced ahead and managed to drive the Mercedes off onto the shoulder of the road.

As the grandmother and the baby emerged from the Mercedes, the suspect managed to squeeze past the Ford truck and take off again.

That’s when Mr. Gorga decided he’d done all he could and dialed 911.

Catching his breath for the first time since the harrowing ordeal began, Mr. Gorga said he thought it had been at least a half hour since he and the grand- mother leapt into his truck.

“I found out afterwards that we had run out of the store at 1:59 p.m. I went back and checked my phone, and it turned out I had called 911 at 2:03 p.m. The whole thing happened in four min- utes!”

“You have to appreciate his cour- age in taking an active role in stopping

this,” said Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley. “He’s to be commended, and we give him a lot of credit.”

The carjacker was later identified as 55-year-old Paul Ludeman of Holtsville. He was charged with a long list of felonies, and later pleaded guilty to felony grand larceny, driving while impaired and endangering the welfare of a child.

When Mr. Gorga finally arrived home, he and his wife of 20 years got to enjoy their Valentine’s Day dinner of steak and lobster.

“He’s a hero,” Ms. Gorga said the day after the rescue. “He was always my hero, and now he’s a hero in the eyes of Greenport.”

Original reporting by Chris Francescani