RICHMOND, Va. (CBSLA/AP) — An Army National Guard officer charged with driving an armored personnel carrier off base while under the influence of drugs insisted Thursday he was ordered to do so as part of a training exercise and called the charges against him “completely bogus.”
1st Lt. Joshua Yabut told The Associated Press Thursday he was first told about the training exercise by his commander a week before he drove the tank-like vehicle away from Fort Pickett on Tuesday evening.READ MORE: 5 Drainage Culverts Retrofitted For Safer Wildlife Crossing Along 12-Mile Stretch Of State Route 118 In Ventura County
Yabut, 29, said he was later given the command in coded military language to conduct the exercise, which he said was aimed at gauging police response.
“I didn’t want to do it, but I believed it was a lawful order, and as a commissioned officer I was required to do so,” Yabut said.
A criminal complaint from the arresting state trooper says Yabut exhibited slurred speech and was unsteady on his feet when he exited the vehicle in downtown Richmond after a pursuit. It says he had no idea where he was at the time.
According to the complaint, Yabut had glassy eyes and dilated pupils, which the trooper wrote were indicative of opioid use.
Yabut, who spoke to The Associated Press from a psychiatric hospital, said the only drug he has taken recently is a low dose of Lexapro for anxiety. He said he’s taken Lexapro on and off since returning from a deployment in Afghanistan in 2009, and it’s never had any behavior-altering side effects.
He has also said he was ordered by a superior to take the vehicle from Fort Pickett, which Guard spokesman A. A. “Cotton” Puryear says is not true.
According to Puryear, the officer was not authorized to drive the carrier off Fort Pickett “to any location for any reason” and there was no exercise to gauge police response.
Yabut was arrested in downtown Richmond after the lengthy police chase. He said he is currently being held in a psychiatric hospital against his will.
The Virginia Army National Guard lieutenant and a commander with an engineering battalion at Fort Pickett also worked for NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, where officials say he worked in a civilian job in the office of the chief information officer from 2014-2017.
According to a filing with the Federal Election Commission, Yabut also intended to run for Tim Kaine’s U.S. Senate seat in Virginia and even created a “Citizens For Joshua Philip Yabut” campaign logo.
Yabut also previously worked as a developer for ZenCash, the cryptocurrency company said in a statement Wednesday, but he has not been associated with the product since June 2017.READ MORE: Minnesota Officer Charged In Daunte Wright Shooting
Yabut was a developer in the project’s early stages, and he “intentionally made public a method” of attacking the system, which was a “vulnerability” that he coded in, according to the statement.
A Twitter account believed to be Yabut’s showed video of what appeared to be Yabut driving the APC, along with other tweets that appeared to allude to Tuesday’s incident, including a map of downtown Richmond, where Yabut was later arrested.
The armored vehicle had only one weapon onboard – Yabut’s gun – but he did not have ammunition, according to Virginia State Police.
Yabut’s lawyer did not respond to several phone messages and emails seeking comment.
The Guard said Yabut is assigned as the commander of the Petersburg-based Headquarters Company, 276th Engineer Battalion. He has more than 11 years of service, and was deployed to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009 with the Illinois National Guard.
The armored personnel carrier, which drives on tracks like a tank, topped out at speeds of about 45 mph (70 kph) on its journey to the state capital. Police couldn’t stop it, so they ended up escorting it, sirens blaring, before Yabut stopped and got out near City Hall.
Yabut said police shot him with a stun gun and set a dog on him before taking him into custody.
“I didn’t just run in to an APC and drive it off,” Yabut said. “It was prepped. It was prepared with 60 miles of fuel and soldiers assisted with the preparation.”MORE NEWS: Pittsburgh Man Claims Rams Star Aaron Donald Assaulted Him
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)