An Army National Guard officer charged with driving
an armored vehicle off base in Virginia under the influence of drugs claims he was ordered to take the vehicle off base as part of a training exercise.
First Lt. Joshua Yabut told
the Associated Press he became aware of the training exercise after a commander notified him of it a week prior to the incident. Several days later, he was given the command through coded military language to conduct the exercise, which he said was aimed at measuring police response, Yabut said.
A Virginia National Guard spokesman refuted Yabut’s claim.
“Lt. Yabut was not authorized by the brigade commander or anyone else to drive the armored personnel carrier off Fort Pickett to any location for any reason,” spokesman A.A. “Cotton” Puryear said in an email.
“I didn’t want to do it, but I believed it was a lawful order, and as a commissioned officer I was required to do so,” Yabut told the Associated Press.
Yabut was arrested earlier this week following a two-hour police chase in a stolen armored vehicle from Fort Pickett. He was arrested with the use of a stun gun after getting out of the vehicle.
Yabut posted a number of pictures and video to his Twitter account around the same time police began chasing after him.
Yabut was charged with driving under the influence of drugs, felony eluding police, and felony unauthorized use of a vehicle.
He claimed that he was never under the influence of drugs and had only taken a dose of Lexipro, a drug he said was prescribed to him for anxiety following a 2009 deployment to Afghanistan.
“I think the toxicology report will show that those charges are completely false, and I don’t even know why I would be charged with that to begin with,” Yabut told the Associated Press.
According to court documents, a state trooper that took part in the arrest said Yabut had “glassy eyes,” dilated pupils and slurred his speech, indicative of opioid use.
The incident is still under investigation.