A Virginia Army National Guard commander and former NASA employee stole an armored personnel carrier from Fort Pickett and led officers on a 60-mile chase to Richmond while high on drugs, police say. First Lieutenant Joshua Yabut, 29, was arrested Tuesday night after the pursuit ended and was charged with driving under the influence of drugs, felony evading police and felony unauthorized use of a vehicle, the Virginia State Police said in a statement.
The bizarre two-hour pursuit went viral on social media, with many witnesses claiming to have seen a “tank” being chased by police. Authorities were quick to correct the record and say the military vehicle was not a tank, but actually an armored personnel carrier which is not equipped with weapons. Yabut, who calls himself a Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, blockchain and information security expert and has tried to run for U.S. Senate, is being held in the city of Richmond jail. Police have not said what kind of drugs Yabut was allegedly under the influence of during the chase.
Here’s what you need to know about Joshua Yabut and the “tank” chase:
1. Yabut Posted Video & Photos From Inside the Armored Personnel Carrier During His Joyride
During and before the chase, Joshua Philip Yabut posted photos and a video, which you can watch above, from inside the armored personnel carrier. You can see the photos below:
At one point, Yabut tweeted, “man i am thirsty.” He also tweeted, “[switching to single channel plain text] this is sovereign 6 actual any station on this net do you read me?” And, “where is this damn water buffalo.”
Before setting out on the joyride, Yabut appeared to be expressing frustration about his military career. He tweeted, “thinking about putting my packet in tbh,” an apparent reference to leaving the National Guard. And tweeted, “im ready to move to London.” Earlier, he tweeted, “what i learned in the army is to never volunteer for anything with that being said im looking for a few volunteers.”
He also tweeted on Tuesday, “all i wanna do is get an anime wife,” and “just received instructions from my local clergyman.” And he tweeted a link to a military information website, writing, “if you ever need resources for a tactical convoy movement then have a look at https://grat.safety.army.mil.” He also tweeted, “permission to execute the 0day sir.” In information security, a 0day is, an “unpatched vulnerability which is used to perform an attack. The name “zero-day” comes from the fact that no patch yet exists to mitigate the vulnerability being exploited. Zero-days are sometimes used in trojan horses, rootkits, viruses, worms and other kinds of malware to help them spread to and infect additional computers.”
In another tweet, he posted a screenshot from the M113 armored personnel carrier Wikipedia page and a map of Richmond:
He also tweeted, “wow i think i just discovered a large illegal spy operation in the us government,” and then “i’m thinking about snitching.”
He retweeted several posts during the hours before taking the APC, including a tweet about “move over” law awareness by the Virginia State Police, tweets by President Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, a tweet from the CIA about a spying operation during World War II and a tweet from the Secretary of the Army about modernizing military equipment.
The chase began about 7:55 p.m. at Fort Pickett, in Blackstone, Virginia, and ended about 9:40 p.m. in Richmond in the Fan section of the city, where Yabut, who describes himself on Linkedin as specializing in “OSCP / OSCE | Blockchain R&D | Infosec,” lives. The Virginia Army National Guard said he is, “a first lieutenant assigned as the commander of the Petersburg-based Headquarters Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, and he has more than 11 years of service. He deployed to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009 with the Illinois National Guard.”
According to the National Guard, Yabut was conducting routine training at Fort Pickett when he drove off in the armored personnel carrier. He tweeted early Tuesday, “it’s a glorious day to shoot 15,000 rounds of ammunition in reflexive fire drills.”
The vehicle, which has since been returned to the base, does not have weapons, and Yabut had his personal weapon, but no ammunition, the National Guard said.
“We are extremely grateful that there were no injuries as a result of this incident and we appreciate the great work of the Virginia State Police, Richmond Police Department and other law enforcement and first responders who safely brought this situation to a close,” Major General Timoty Williams, the adjutant general of Virginia, said in a statement. “We have initiated our own internal investigation and we will determine appropriate actions once the investigation is complete.”
Yabut appeared in court Wednesday morning.
2. Several Witnesses Posted Videos on Social Media as They Spotted the ‘Tank’ Rolling Through Richmond Followed by Several Police Officers
Shocked witnesses posted videos on social media Tuesday night, saying they had just seen a “tank” being chased by several police officers as it rolled down highways and into the city streets of Richmond.
The tank-like armored vehicle was taken from Fort Pickett, in Blackstone, Virginia, state police told WTVR-TV. No injuries or crashes have been reported. The truck was seen on Interstate 95 and U.S. Route 460.
Police said the vehicle was taken on the joy ride by a soldier, who has not been identified. The chase lasted nearly two hours, with speeds topping out at 40 mph.
You can watch one of the videos below, recorded on Route 460 (warning – language):
In one video, shot in Richmond, a witness yells, “It’s a goddamn tank! What the hell! Bro!” as the vehicle and police roll by.
Another video shows the chase going through Richmond on Broad Street:
Two more videos also showed the pursuit on Broad Street in Richmond:
Another video was captioned, “what the f*ck did I just see”:
Yet another video captured the chase as it rolled through Dinwiddie:
The chase ended with the APC stuck on a median on Broad Street between City Hall and Capitol Square, Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Ned Oliver tweeted. He posted a photo of the end of the pursuit:
“Witnesses say he drove the vehicle up on the median, stopped, got out and started walking around. Police sent a dog to attack him and shot him with a taser and he was taken into custody. The chase began more than 60 miles away in Blackstone,” Oliver tweeted. “He got off the interstate at the Boulevard exit and drove down Broad Street. He drove by me at about 40 mph near the intersection with Belvidere. Traffic had been backed up and police screamed into the intersection and started frantically clearing the road as he approached.”
“No crashes or injuries occurred during the course or as a result of this incident,” Virginia State Police spokesperson Corrine Geller said in a statement. “The adult, male driver of the vehicle is now in state police custody and the incident is under investigation. Charges are pending.”
In a statement Virginia State Police said they were notified the vehicle was “driven away” from Fort Pickett about 7:55 p.m. Tuesday. “The military vehicle – which is not equipped with any weaponry and is NOT a tank – was driven east on Route 460 at a maximum speed of about 40 mph,” state police said.
3. Yabut Has Served in the Army National Guard Since 2006 & Worked at NASA From 2013 to 2017
Joshua Yabut has served in the Army National Guard since 2006, according to his Linkedin profile. He began his career as an infantryman from 2006 to 2012, and during that period, he was “deployed as a security force member of an Afghanistan-based Provincial Reconstruction Team.”
In 2012, he became a platoon leader in the Virginia Army National Guard, based in Fredericksburg, specializing in “Military explosives, survivability, mobility, and counter-mobility operations.” In December 2014 he became an executive officer (engineer). And in November 2016 he was named as a company commander (engineer) in Petersburg, Virginia.
Yabut worked for NASA from 2013 to 2017, according to his Linkedin profile. He began there as a budget analyst at its Langley Research Center, where he “Served as a member of NASA Langley’s budget formulation team.” He said from November 2014 to April 2017 he was “Red Team Leader” at NASA, at the Langley Research Center:
Performs and leads routine and tailored offensive-type cybersecurity activities including:
Web application auditing
Network and application scanning
Wireless spectrum auditing
Static code analysis
Penetration testing and computer network exploitation (CNE) assessments
4. He Tried to Petition His Way Onto the Ballot for the U.S. Senate Seat Held by Tim Kaine This Year
Yabut has attempted to run for the U.S. Senate in Virginia, a cached version of a petition website shows. He was attempting to run as an independent candidate for the seat held by Democrat Tim Kaine.
He filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on February 21, 2018, setting up “Citizens for Joshua Yabut.” On March 25, the FEC responded with a request for additional information, saying Yabut’s initial filing wasn’t adequate. It is not clear if Yabut filed a response. It was due April 30 and no other documents appear on the FEC website.
On June 4, Yabut tweeted, “i have received a few requests for autographs and campaign information for my u.s. senate run.”
Along with filing with the FEC, Yabut also started a Facebook page, “Citizens for Joshua Yabut.” In the about section, Yabut wrote, “Let’s put a millennial in the U.S. Senate!”
On March 21, he shared a New York Times article about “Nazi” candidate Arthur Jones, who had won the Republican primary for an Illinois Congressional seat after running unopposed. He added a simple comment: “sad.” He also shared a Chicago Tribune article about J.B. Pritzker winning the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor through a $70 million campaign and commented, “Also sad!”
5. Yabut Graduated From DePaul University & Says He ‘Actively Maintains & Develops New Blockchain Technologies’
Joshua Philip Yabut graduated from DePaul University in Chicago in 2012 with a degree in information technology, according to his Linkedin page. While at DePaul, he was a member of the Army ROTC. In 2014, he completed his master’s degree at DePaul in information technology project management.
On his Senate petition, Yabut says he was named to the Mozilla Security Researcher Hall of Fame in 2016 and he “actively maintains and develops new blockchain technologies.” The Mozilla website shows he received money through the Firefox Bug Bounty Rewards program in the third quarter of 2016.
On NewsBTC, Yabut’s profile says:
Josh gained an initial interest in Bitcoin and p2p transfer networks as a miner in 2011 while pursuing an education at DePaul University. He brings on a wealth of expertise in secure coding, secure computing, decentralized protocol development, and project management. Prior to entering the distributed ledger technology industry he’s served as a Red Team Leader for NASA and was responsible for managing and deploying offensive security capabilities. In addition some publicly available security research he has conducted includes an omni-platform remote code execution vulnerability in Tor Browser (CVE-2016-5284). Josh is also a commissioned officer serving in the Army National Guard.
Yabut led the development of a niche cryptocurrencey, ZenCash, and left the effort abruptly last year, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. The company said after Yabut left the project, “he announced and made public a method of attacking the Zen blockchain,” according to the Times-Dispatch. ZenCash was hit by an attack over the weekend, DigitalTrends.com reported.
Yabut has ties to several states, according to public records, which list addresses in California, Florida, Texas, Missouri and Georgia. On Facebook, he says he graduated from Coginchaug Regional High School in Durham, Connecticut, in 2006.