National Guard refutes claim soldier was ordered to take Richmond ride

Posted at 1:34 PM, Jun 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-07 13:47:58-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia National Guard Soldier Joshua Philip Yabut was not authorized to drive an armored personnel carrier off Fort Pickett to any location, for any reason. That's what Virginia National Guard spokesperson Cotton Puryear said in response to Yabut's claim he was simply following orders.

Yabut, 29, was arrested Tuesday night after he drove the military vehicle 60 miles from Fort Pickett near Blackstone, Virginia all the way to downtown Richmond. Police were in pursuit of Yabut during most of his trip along Route 460, Interstate 85, Interstate 95, and Broad Street.

In an interview granted to the Associated Press, Yabut claimed his brigade commander ordered him to drive the vehicle off base to test police response to the situation. Yabut made that call to the AP from Central State Hospital in Petersburg where he is being evaluated following his arrest.

Yabut was charged with with driving under the influence of drugs, felony eluding police, and felony unauthorized use of a vehicle.

While the reason behind his actions remained unclear Thursday, Crime Insider sources said the first lieutenant with 11 years military experience was on an anti-depressant and a prescription bottle was found as part of the investigation.

During the drive from Fort Pickett to downtown Richmond, Yabut appeared active on Twitter, as several photos were posted his account.

Yabut had previously been deployed to Afghanistan, from 2008 to 2009, with the Illinois National Guard.

He worked for NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton as a civil servant in the Office of the Chief Information Officer, from 2014-17. A LinkedIn profile that appeared to be Yabut's said his responsibilities there included "routine and tailored offensive-type cyber security activities."

Court documents showed Yabut lived at an apartment in Jackson Ward on 2nd Street, just north of Broad Street in downtown.  The landlord of the property confirmed Yabut lived in an upstairs apartment for "about a year," but the landlord declined to comment further.

He was arraigned Wednesday morning and is scheduled to return to court July 11.

Virginia State Police continue to investigate the incident.

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