Just before 8pm on Tuesday, June 5, Joshua Phillip Yabut, a 29-year-old 1st Lieutenant in the Virginia National Guard, drove off the Guard’s Fort Pickett training center in Blackstone, Virginia in an M577 command post vehicle. This unscheduled deployment was followed by one of the strangest police chases ever.
(Update, 15:49 EDT) Just before hitting the road, Yabut posted a selfie, flashing the Wu Tang Clan sign.
wutang clan ain’t nothin to fuck wit booiiiiiiii pic.twitter.com/NUvnVRCRkE
— Joshua [BCH] (@movrcx) June 5, 2018
He also posted video from inside the M577 while it was moving. Based on the time it was posted, it was while he was driving off Fort Pickett. His sidearm is visible.
— Joshua [BCH] (@movrcx) June 6, 2018
Yabut drove the tracked vehicle east on US Route 460 and then north on Interstate 95, followed by a swarm of Virginia State Police vehicles, reaching the M557’s top-end speed of 40mph. He finally stopped the vehicle in the Fan district of Richmond, blocked in by police cars, and was apprehended at 9:40pm.
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 M577 is a variant of the M113 armored personnel carrier (APC), in use by the US Army since the 1960s, and exported widely to foreign militaries.
As a Virginia National Guard spokesperson noted in a statement emailed to Ars, the M577 “is not equipped with any weaponry and is NOT a tank.” The personnel carrier was returned to Fort Pickett with “no significant damage.” Yabut, who has more than 11 years of service and deployed to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009 with the Illinois National Guard, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of drugs, one felony count of eluding police, and one felony count of unauthorized use of a vehicle.
Yabut, who is (or perhaps, was) commander of the Petersburg-based Headquarters Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, was apparently involved in “routine training” at Fort Pickett when he decided to deviate from the operational plan. While the M577 was not armed, Yabut carried his own personal weapon—but 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.”
(Update 16:15 EDT) Yabut also has some involvement with information security. In 2016, he stumbled upon a zero-day vulnerability in the Tor browser. And he recently staged an attempt to run for Virginia’s Senate, trying to get himself on the ballot for the Republican primary. This ride may have been somehow connected to that, as in a Twitter post he made yesterday included a screenshot of a map of the area around Virginia’s capitol building and of the Wikipedia entry for the M113.
In a bond hearing by video conference today, Yabut told a judge that the National Guard was his only source of income. He was denied bond.
Listing image by WTVR