Richmond, VA – The active-duty Army National Guard officer, who stole an armored personnel carrier from Fort Pickett, is now claiming that he did so under orders.
In an interview with the associated press, First Lieutenant Joshua Philip Yabut, 29, told reporters that his brigade commander had ordered him to drive the vehicle off of the base to test the police response.
According to WTVR, the Virginia National Guard has responded that Yabut was not authorized to drive the M577 armored personnel carrier off base for any reason.
Yabut was arrested for allegedly being high on drugs during the pursuit, and WTVR reports that he was on anti-depressants.
The armored personnel carrier was driven off the base during a routine training at around 7:50 p.m. Tuesday night.
The Army Times reported that Yabut foreshadowed his upcoming adventure with a series of tweets, posted hours before he drove the tank-like vehicle off the base on June 5.
First, he posted a picture of a M111 armored personnel carrier, which is very similar to the M577 he later stole. Then he posted a screenshot of a map around the area where he eventually stopped the vehicle and ended the chase.
Police said Yabut drove the personnel carrier onto Route 460 before he began heading north on Interstate 95, traveling at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour.
At 8 p.m., shortly after police began chasing the military vehicle that runs on tracks, Yabut tweeted a photo and video of himself inside the stolen vehicle.
Law enforcement officers scrambled to clear busy roadways and a helicopter hovered above as the military vehicle proceeded into Richmond and headed towards the downtown Capitol building, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
"We wanted to make sure we had the safety of the public first and foremost, and we wanted to make sure there wasn't going to be the possibility of civilians being injured in the process," Virginia State Police Sergeant Keeli Hill told WTVR.
The Virginia National Guard said the military transport vehicle that Yabut stole was not weaponized. The lieutenant was carrying his own sidearm, but had no ammunition.
The chase ended near Richmond City Hall at approximately 9:40 p.m. – nearly two hours after it began.
“It sounds like he pretty much just stopped on his own accord,” Sgt. Hill said.
Yabut parked the military vehicle on a median, then exited and began walking around the carrier, witnesses told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
A fur missile was launched to apprehend Yabut, and police tased the soldier at least once, witnesses told the paper.
Police said the Army officer has been charged with felony counts of unauthorized use of a vehicle and eluding police, but that he had also been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs.
“We are extremely grateful that there were no injuries as a result of this incident,” Adjutant General Major General Timothy Williams said, according to FOX News. “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.”
Just hours before he stole the personnel carrier, Yabut took to Twitter and announced that he was considering ending his career as a soldier.
“Thinking about putting my packet in tbh,” he wrote.
The Virginia National Guard said it had started its own internal investigation into the incident, and “will determine appropriate actions once the investigation is complete.”
The Virginia National Guard told the Army Times that Yabut, a first lieutenant, is the company commander of the 276th Engineer Battalion, and has served in the U.S. military for more than 11 years.
He was deployed to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009 with the Illinois National Guard.
In February, Yabut registered his candidacy for U.S. Senate as an Independent in Virginia, challenging former Vice-Presidential candidate Tim Kaine, the Army Times reported.
Yabut worked for the chief information officer in the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton as a civilian employee from 2014 to 2017. He also worked as a developer for a cryptocurrency company.
Yabut was being held at the Richmond jail, FOX News reported. His arraignment was scheduled for Thursday.