When news broke about the theft of an M577 Armored Command Vehicle from Fort Picket in Blackstone, Virginia on Tuesday, many saw reports of the chase, complete with the lack of damage to private property or injuries, as nothing more than a case of a soldier going for a joy ride: foolish, likely drug fueled, but no more nefarious than that.
Reports from the arresting officers seemed to support that suspicion. When 1st Lt. Joshua Yabut was taken into custody, officers noted that he had glassy eyes, didn’t seem to know where he was, and was exhibiting behavior that was consistent with opioid use. It seemed a cut and dry case, that is, until Yabut made a phone call to the Associated Press.
“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,” he said of the drug allegations — but that was far from the most unusual claim made by the 11-year veteran.
He also claims he ordered to take the vehicle — and that other soldiers were involved in the preparation for his two-hour, sixty-mile chase.
“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,” he claimed. “I didn’t just run in to an APC and drive it off. It was prepped. It was prepared with 60 miles of fuel and soldiers assisted with the preparation.”
At first glance, it could be easy to dismiss these claims as the ravings of just the sort of drug user that would steal and armored command center and lead police on a medium-speed chase — but a perusal of Yabut’s social media accounts prompts some interesting questions.
Yabut’s LinkedIn account, in particular, presents the image of a polished professional with some impressive credentials. The Afghanistan veteran’s photo depicts a clean-cut young man with a tailored suit, and beneath it you’ll find not only his position with the National Guard, but roles as a Budget Analyst and, more intriguing, a “Red Team” leader for NASA. “Red Team” is jargon that digital security professionals often use for people tasked with attacking systems like an outside threat might, in order to identify potential weaknesses.
That also could be easily dismissed as flight of fancy, except Yabut does seem to have a master’s degree in Information Technology Project Management from DePaul University, and although NASA has yet to confirm if Yabut ever worked for them, at least one other company can vouge for his technical skills, if not his character.
Another company he worked for, ZenCash, released a statement last week confirming that Yabut did indeed work for them as a developer, but left in 2017 after “intentionally” making a vulnerability he had coded into their software public.
It would seem, then, that Yabut is, at the least, competent — and his tweets from the night of the theft seem to support the idea that he (at least believed) he had been ordered to take the M577.
However, his other posts arguably support the idea that he may have been under the influence of drugs — or at the very least, outdated pop culture references.
He even posted video from inside the vehicle during his ride.
— Joshua [BCH] (@movrcx) June 6, 2018
Digging deeper into his Twitter, however, it begins to seem like Yabut may have been losing his grip on reality. He also tweeted, “wow i think i just discovered a large illegal spy operation in the us government,” along with “i’m thinking about snitching.” At one point, he tweeted an image of the Wikipedia page for the M113 (the vehicle the M577 is based on) along with a map of Richmond, Virginia.
Of course, it’s extremely unlikely that Yabut was acting under even misinterpreted orders from his command, begging the question: what happened to this young man? It’s one thing to steal a vehicle while under the influence of drugs but it’s entirely another to maintain the delusion days later while in police custody.
Images courtesy of Twitter