RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – A soldier accused of stealing an armored personnel carrier from a National Guard base and leading police on a more than 60-mile (100-kilometer) chase was driving under the influence of drugs, Virginia State Police said Wednesday.
Joshua Philip Yabut, 29, of Richmond, was charged with eluding police and unauthorized use of a vehicle, the Virginia National Guard said in a news release.
This is INSANE! Someone has hijacked a “Tank-like” vehicle from Fort Pickett and just drove it by our apartment! This is on Broad Street in the Fan. pic.twitter.com/EYfhFux1dk
— Parker Slaybaugh (@ParkerSlay89) June 6, 2018
The vehicle, which drives on tracks like a tank, was stolen Tuesday evening from Fort Pickett in Blackstone. Police chased it for about two hours at speeds as high as 40 mph (65 kph) before the driver stopped and surrendered near Richmond City Hall, state police said.
The Guard said the personnel carrier was stolen during routine training at Fort Pickett and has been returned to the base in Blackstone. The vehicle wasn’t equipped with any weapons, but Yabut had his personal weapon with him without any ammunition, the Guard said.
Police said the investigation is ongoing and declined to comment on a motive for stealing the vehicle, but said Yabut was under the influence of drugs when he was arrested.
The Guard said Yabut is a first lieutenant assigned as company commander of the 276th Engineer Battalion and has more than 11 years of service. He deployed to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009 with the Illinois National Guard.
"We are extremely grateful that there were no injuries as a result of this incident, and we appreciate the great work of the Virginia State Police, Richmond Police Department and other law enforcement and first responders who safely brought this situation to a close," Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, said in a statement.
Williams said the Guard has started an internal investigation and "will determine appropriate actions once the investigation is complete."
Michael Finneran, a spokesman for the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, said Yabut worked there in a civilian job in the office of the chief information officer from 2014-2017.
Yabut seemed to foreshadow the theft and chase in Twitter posts Tuesday. Hours before the vehicle drove off the base, an account confirmed by the Guard as Yabut’s tweeted a Wikipedia entry about the M113 armored personnel carrier, which is similar to the M577 vehicle police chased, and a screenshot of a map around the area where the vehicle eventually stopped.
Minutes after police began their pursuit shortly before 8 p.m., Yabut posted a photo and video of himself in what appears to be the stolen vehicle.
He wrote a series of odd tweets Tuesday, including: "where is this damn water buffalo" ”all i wanna do is get an anime wife" and "wow I think I just discovered a large illegal spy operation in the us government."
In February, Yabut filed papers to run as an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Tim Kaine.
Yabut is being held at the Richmond jail. It could not immediately be determined if he has an attorney.