Company commander steals armored vehicle/tank from National Guard base, police say

Company commander steals armored vehicle/tank from National Guard base, police say

RICHMOND, Va. — Police in Virginia say they arrested a soldier who stole an armored personnel carrier from a National Guard base and was chased by police for more than 60 miles.

A Richmond soldier who filed paperwork earlier this year to run for the U.S. Senate and recently worked as a researcher at NASA was arraigned Wednesday morning in connection to the theft of an armored vehicle that led police on a pursuit that ended in downtown Richmond near Capitol Square.

The 29-year-old accused of stealing the APC and driving it under the influence of drugs is a first lieutenant and company commander, the Virginia National Guard said.

No bond was set when he appeared in Richmond General District Court by video link from the city jail, where he is being held.

Yabut, a company commander in the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion, “was conducting routine training at Fort Pickett when he drove away in the armored personnel carrier” just before 8 p.m. on Tuesday, according to the National Guard. They said he has 11 years of service and deployed to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009 with the Illinois National Guard.

State Police Sgt. Keeli Hill tells the Richmond Times-Dispatch the vehicle, which drives on tracks like a tank, topped out at speeds of about 45 mph.

Police couldn’t stop it, so they ended up escorting it, sirens blazing, ahead and behind it before the man finally stopped and got out near Richmond’s City Hall.

Witnesses said the driver got out and started walking around before police sent a dog to attack him, shot him with a Taser and took him into custody.

Virginia State Police say the vehicle, which is National Guard property, was driven away from Fort Pickett in Nottoway County on Tuesday evening. State police pursued it and say they arrested Yabut in Richmond.

Yabut is being held at the Richmond jail. It could not immediately be determined if he has an attorney.

Yabut posted pictures and video of himself on Twitter inside a heavy-duty military vehicle shortly after the pursuit began. About six hours before that, he appeared to hint at his plans for the day, sharing a screenshot of a map of Capitol Square with a pin in the Capitol building paired with the Wikipedia entry for the M113 armored personnel carrier, a tracked vehicle that resembles a tank with no turret and is similar to the M577 Yabut allegedly stole.

His Twitter presence is prolific and at times strange. On Tuesday, Yabut retweeted a Bernie Sanders post criticizing the executive compensation of Walt Disney Company’s CEO, a Virginia State Police public message about move over awareness month, and a news story about President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel a planned visit of Philadelphia Eagles players to the White House.

Company commander steals armored vehicle/tank from National Guard base, police say

In messages he authored, he wrote:

“What I learned in the army is to never volunteer for anything with that being said I’m looking for a few volunteers”

“all i wanna do is get an anime wife”

“just received instructions from my local clergyman”

“where is this damn water buffalo”

“wow i think i just discovered a large illegal spy operation in the us government”

The caption of the photo he shared of himself in what appears to be an armored vehicle is “wutang clan ain’t nothin to f— wit booiiiiiiii” and he makes “W” hand sign in the image. Wu-Tang Clan is a popular hip-hop group from New York City.

The video he shared around the same time appears to have been shot while he was driving an armored vehicle and shows only his back.

While there are no clear indications about what might have sparked the theft of the vehicle, Yabut’s online presence offers a detailed account of his past and current pursuits.

He filed paperwork in February to run as an independent for the U.S. Senate seat held by Tim Kaine but was notified in March that his application lacked adequate information, according to Federal Election Commission records. There is no response on file but in social media posts he shared the status of his effort to get the state’s voter file and solicited signatures to make the ballot.

From November 2014 to April 2017, Yabut worked as a cyber security researcher in the office of the chief information officer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Langley Research Center, agency spokesman Michael Finneran confirmed.

Company commander steals armored vehicle/tank from National Guard base, police say

“He left to pursue opportunities elsewhere,” Finneran said. “I talked to a couple people who worked directly with him and they didn’t have anything negative to say about him and said he was a pretty smart guy.”

He also led the development of a niche cryptocurrency called ZenCash, according to posts by the project’s team, which say he abruptly left the effort last year. The company wrote last year that after he dropped the project, “he announced and made public a method of attacking the Zen blockchain.”

One of Yabut’s Twitter posts Tuesday read, “permission to execute the 0day sir.”

Zero-day is a computing term hacker’s use for an initial attack on a software vulnerability.

There were news reports Monday that ZenCash had indeed suffered from an attack over the weekend, though the timing could be a coincidence and has not been publicly linked to Yabut.

Mary Greeley News