- An Army National Guard armoured vehicle was stolen from a base in central Virginia.
- Police followed the vehicle into the city and surrounded it near City Hall.
- The driver, a soldier, appears to have surrendered on his own.
Virginia Army National Guard 1st Lt. Joshua Phillip Yabut, 29, was charged with driving under the influence of drugs, felony eluding police, and felony unauthorised use of a vehicle on Wednesday, hours after he was apprehended with armoured personnel carrier taken from a base near Richmond and driven into the city, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The Guard said that the 276th Engineer Battalion, the Petersburg-based of which Yabut was in command, was doing routine training at Fort Pickett “when he drove away in the armoured personnel carrier.” Yabut had 11 years of service and was deployed to Afghanistan with the Illinois National Guard from 2008 to 2009.
Yabut also apparently tweeted before and during the incident.
He appeared to hint about what was to come by tweeting a screenshot of a map of the capitol in Richmond next to a screenshot of the Wikipedia entry for the M113 armoured personnel carrier.
Yabut also seems to have taken video footage of himself while driving the vehicle, tweeting out a short clip.
Yabut also shared a variety of news stories through his Twitter account and posted a number of strange messages. “all i wanna do is get an anime wife,” he said in one. He also tweeted, “where is this damn water buffalo,” which may have been a reference to a tank of water for troops that armoured personnel carriers sometimes haul.
It is not yet clear what motives there were for the theft. Yabut himself appears to have a varied background. In February he filed paperwork to run as an independent for US Senate, challenging current Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, though he was notified in March that his application lacked adequate information, according to the Times-Dispatch.
He also led development of a cryptocurrency called ZenCash, though the project’s team said he left suddenly in 2017 and then “announced and made public a method of attacking” the currency’s blockchain.
Yabut, who lives in Richmond’s Jackson Ward neighbourhood, appeared in Richmond General District Court on Wednesday through a video from the Richmond city jail, where he is being held.
State police said on Tuesday night that the vehicle was stolen from Fort Pickett, an Army National Guard base in Blackstone, which is about a 60-mile drive from Richmond, at about 7:50 pm.
Yabut then allegedly drove the vehicle east on Route 460 and then north to Richmond on Interstate 95. The vehicle was travelling at about 40 mph and was not armed with any weapons.
Once reaching Richmond, the driver exited the highway onto the Boulevard, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, before turning onto Broad Street and heading toward the Capitol building.
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
Police cleared vehicles from the road as the armoured vehicle rolled through, with a state police helicopter tracking the APC with its spotlight. By 9:40 pm, the man had stopped on East Broad Street and 11th Street, near City Hall and Capitol Square.
Witnesses said the vehicle drove onto a median, stopped, and then the man driving got out and started walking around. Police sent a dog after him and shot him with a Taser, they told the Times-Dispatch.
“It sounds like he pretty much just stopped on his own accord,” State Police Sgt. Keeli Hill told the Times-Dispatch. State police responded to a call about the vehicle and followed it as it travelled from Fort Pickett into downtown Richmond, a chase lasting about two hours.
There were no crashes or injuries as a result of the chase.
You can see more footage of the armoured personnel carrier stopped on the streets of Richmond below.
The man who fled in a stolen armored personnel vehicle was taken into custody Tuesday night in Richmond. Here's an aerial view of the scene on Broad Street in downtown #RVA. pic.twitter.com/O7hd9HFh25
— WTVR CBS 6 Richmond (@CBS6) June 6, 2018
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