Soldier indicted for military vehicle theft

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: November 16, 2018 | 1:40 p.m. 

FORT PICKETT – A Virginia National Guard soldier who led police on a multi-jurisdictional pursuit in an armored military vehicle over the summer has been indicted by a Richmond grand jury in connection with the late-rush hour chase.

According to the Virginia Courts Information System, 30-year-old Joshua Philip Yabut was indicted on two felony counts of eluding police in Richmond Circuit Court last week following the June 5 pursuit where the Richmonder stole an armored military vehicle from Fort Pickett, leading police on a 60-mile chase that started in Nottoway County.

That vehicle, which authorities stressed did not have any weapons equipped and was not considered a tank or similar vehicle after social media users began chronicling the chase online using the hashtag “#RVATank,” made its way from the base in the early evening hours of the day with members of Virginia State Police in pursuit.

The chase made its way eastbound along U.S. Route 460 through the heart of Dinwiddie County before eventually reaching the Interstate 85-95 interchange in Petersburg and traveling northward toward Richmond, where the pursuit eventually ended near the intersection of East Broad Street and 11th Street near VCU Medical Center and the capitol building, where Yabut eventually surrendered. 

Officials with the Virginia National Guard reported that Yabut is a first lieutenant assigned as the commander of the Petersburg-based Headquarters Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, and he has more than 11 years of service. He deployed to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009 with the Illinois National Guard.

He enlisted in the Florida Army National Guard as an 11B infantry Soldier in October 2006, and he earned his commission through ROTC at the University of Illinois at Chicago in June 2012. He joined the Virginia National Guard in May 2013, and he took command of Headquarters Company Nov. 19, 2016.

At the time of the incident, the Virginia National Guard said the unit was conducting routine training at Fort Pickett when he drove away in the armored personnel carrier. The vehicle has been recovered and returned to Fort Pickett with no significant damage. The vehicle was not equipped with any weapons, but the Soldier did have his personal weapon with him but had no ammunition.

“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,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “We have initiated our own internal investigation, and we will determine appropriate actions once the investigation is complete.”

No new information regarding their investigation has been revealed by the Virginia National Guard. 

At the time of his arrest, Yabut was charged with driving while under the influence of drugs, felony eluding, and felony unauthorized use of a vehicle. According to court records, Richmond prosecutors declined to move forward on the DWI and unauthorized use of a vehicle charges in the city’s general district court, opting to instead take the case before a grand jury on two counts of felony eluding.

Following his arrest, Yabut disputed claims he was under the influence of drugs at the time of the chase, telling the Associated Press while he was being held at Dinwiddie’s Central State Hospital that some of the charges that were being levied against him were “just bogus” and that he had been directed by his commander to take the vehicle out and drive it on a route to measure police response.

Yabut is expected to return to court in December for a pre-trial motions hearing. 

According to the most recent records available, Yabut remains in the custody of the Richmond Sheriff’s Department.

Copyright 2018 by Womack Publishing
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