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Soldier who drove armored vehicle through the streets says he was following orders

Soldier drives off in armored vehicle

RICHMOND, Va. -- A Virginia National Guard officer accused of driving an armored personnel carrier off base while under the influence of drugs insists he was ordered to do so as part of a training exercise. 1st Lt. Joshua Yabut said Thursday he was first told about the training exercise by his commander a week before he drove the vehicle away from Fort Pickett on Tuesday evening. 

A spokesman for the Virginia National Guard denied Yabut's claim. Guard spokesman A. A. "Cotton" Puryear said Yabut was not authorized to drive the carrier off Fort Pickett "to any location for any reason."

Yabut, who is 29, was arrested in downtown Richmond Tuesday night after he drove the military vehicle 60 miles from Fort Pickett, near Blackstone, Virginia, to downtown Richmond. His arrest came after a lengthy police chase. 

Armored Vehicle Stolen
In this June 5, 2018 photo, emergency personnel surround a National Guard military vehicle stolen from Fort Pickett, Nottoway County, Va.  Grace Hollars/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP

Court documents said Yabut was glassy-eyed and disoriented when he was taken into custody. A criminal complaint from the arresting state trooper said he exhibited slurred speech and was unsteady on his feet when he exited the vehicle after the police pursuit. It said he had no idea where he was at the time.

The complaint said 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, has denied that he was under the influence of drugs. He said he is being held in the psychiatric hospital against his will.

Yabut 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.

CBS affiliate WTVR-TV reports that Yabut was charged with driving under the influence of drugs and felony eluding police, as well as felony unauthorized use of a vehicle.

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