A man who wielded a knife and stole a rental car from two tourists in Old Town this past spring was sentenced on Monday to 7 years and 8 months in prison.
Lawrence Atwood had earlier pleaded guilty to carjacking, use of a deadly weapon and abating arrest.
His defense attorney, Saba Sheibani, had requested a lower sentence, but the judge cited the 47-year-old man’s 30 years of criminal history of drug use, battery, resisting arrest and theft in handing down his sentence.
Sheibani pointed out that her client struggles with drug addiction and was high on meth at the time of the carjacking. Further, the attorney said he didn’t realize someone was in the car when he was attempting to steal it.
However, Deputy District Attorney Jalyn Wang noted how Atwood led Chula Vista police on a dangerous and reckless chase, zipping through a neighborhood and driving the wrong way down a one-way street.
The incident happened on March, when the husband and wife were visiting San Diego from Washington state and had stopped at an Arco gas station in Old Town.
The husband went inside the gas station, as his wife waited in the car with the engine running. That’s when Atwood climbed into the driver’s seat of the rental car, brandishing a knife, police said.
He told the woman to get out. She followed his orders and he took off in the rental car, police said.
Atwood later surrendered after leading police on a pursuit through a neighborhood.
“It really has affected her life,” Wang said, referring to the wife. “She felt that the defendant was extremely bold and brazen to do this in broad daylight and he just seemed so disconnected from the gravity of what he was doing.
Atwood still has pending indecent exposure and under the influence charges in El Cajon.