At approximately 7:50 p.m. on Tuesday night, Virginia police responded to a break in on Fort Picket, a National Guard base in the town of Blackstone. The suspect, who has not been identified but appears to be a National Guard soldier himself, was already making a medium speed getaway with the stolen property: what appears to be an M577 Armored Command Vehicle.
Police pursued the armored vehicle on Virginia’s Route 460 and onto Interstate 95, reaching speeds of little more than 40 miles per hour throughout. The M577, which is based on the M113 continuous track armored platform, has a reported top speed of just about 42 miles per hour, so despite the fairly low speeds for a highway chase, the suspect was certainly putting the 12 ton vehicle to work. The chase continued into downtown Richmond, Virginia, where the vehicle, which was not equipped with any sort of offensive weapons, appeared to be heading for the state’s Capitol building.
“This is INSANE! Someone has hijacked a ‘Tank-like’ vehicle from Fort Pickett and just drove it by our apartment!,” Parker Slaybaugh, the communications director for the Virginia Speaker of the House, wrote on Twitter.
This is INSANE! Someone has hijacked a “Tank-like” vehicle from Fort Pickett and just drove it by our apartment! This is on Broad Street in the Fan. pic.twitter.com/EYfhFux1dk
— Parker Slaybaugh (@ParkerSlay89) June 6, 2018
Nearly two hours after the chase began, the suspect drove the tracked vehicle up onto a median and was promptly surrounded by law enforcement. The 60 mile pursuit then came to a peaceful end, with the suspect surrendering to officers and identifying himself as a soldier.
“It just seemed like something out of a movie. I heard a large vehicle, it sounded like a tank, but it was moving pretty fast,” said local resident Brian Wingert.
No injuries or damaged vehicles have been reported in the aftermath of the chase, suggesting that the suspect may have had at least some seat time in the M577 before, or at least had no intention of harming others throughout the pursuit, though no information has been released thus far that may shed some light onto the motive in this crime. Although the vehicle seemed to be headed for the Capitol building as many outlets have reported, at this time there is little information to suggest that the suspect had any intention to cause further damage or to harm others upon arrival if that was the intended finish line.
“The Virginia State Police began pursuit of the vehicle since receiving the initial report and traveled along with it from Nottoway County to the City of Richmond,” said Corrine Geller, Virginia State Police spokesperson. “No crashes or injuries occurred during the course or as a result of this incident.”
Only in the 804 would someone steal a whole army tank .. pic.twitter.com/1vO53Boyed
— 6/7 🎈 (@Bass_Kid_) June 6, 2018
It’s possible the soldier simply wanted to steal the vehicle for a joy ride, though the ramifications of such an act would be so severe, it’s impossible to discount the idea that he had more nefarious intentions.
The M577, and its parent vehicle the M113, can come equipped with aluminum armor ranging in thickness from 12 to 38 millimeters, effectively repelling small arms fire and severely limiting law enforcement’s options if the chase had turned violent.
Featured image courtesy of Twitter