What motivated soldier to allegedly take armored military truck on joyride?

Posted at 11:14 PM, Jun 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-06 23:25:14-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- When Lt. Joshua Yabut took a left from Boulevard onto Broad Street, law enforcement officials feared a path of destruction, according to Crime Insider sources.

Those sources say they were surprised when he drove east on Broad Street, and even followed a detour for construction at 9th Street, before stopping at 11th and getting out of the M577 armored personnel carrier.

Police pursued Yabut for 60 miles, from Fort Pickett in Blackstone to Route 460, Interstate 85 and then north on Interstate 95 to Richmond.

Joshua Philip Yabut

"It's a tactical vehicle. It can go up to 58 miles per hour. There are amphibious. I mean he didn’t have to just go on the highway. He could've took it through the woods, he could have took it through a swamp,” said Jason Kunkel, a disabled Army veteran.

The armored vehicle had only one weapon onboard – Yabut's gun. He did not have ammunition, according to Virginia State Police.

He got off I-95 at the Boulevard exit and headed south towards Broad.

State police said Yabut was under the influence of drugs. Crime Insider sources say it was an anti-depressant. A prescription bottle was found.

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

Kunkel says Yabut taking the stolen carrier on the Boulevard could be a significant clue.

“Is it PTSD from when he deployed years ago?” asked Kunkel. “Is it the medications, personal things? My first thought was… something clicked, and he needed to get home. Being a disabled veteran with PTSD myself. I've had those issues where it just doesn’t feel right, and you need to get to a place of comfort quickly.”

Bizarre behavior, drugs, tweets from inside the vehicle and a slow 60-mile pursuit by police.

It’s troubling Kunkel says, but he emphasizes that it could've been a lot worse.

"There’s a lot of things he could've done with that. A lot of damage… He could have pushed cars, knocked over signs,” Kunkel said. “He could've done a lot of damage in a short period of time.”

The 29-year-old was charged with driving under the influence of drugs, felony eluding police, and felony unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Yabut remains at the Richmond Justice Center. He was arraigned Wednesday morning and returns to court July 11.

Crime Insider sources say he underwent a mental evaluation Tuesday night.