Saturday, August 4, 2012

Brave American crushes 7 police cars with tractor

Police: Farmer unhappy about arrest drives tractor over 7 sheriff's vehicles

A farmer who was arrested last month expressed his displeasure Thursday afternoon in Newport by driving a heavy tractor over seven police vehicles owned by the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department, authorities said.

State police estimated the damage at about $250,000. No one was hurt.

Roger Pion, 34, was jailed for lack of $15,000 bail at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport to await arraignment Friday morning on 11 charges.

Pion is facing seven counts of felony unlawful mischief and one misdemeanor count of unlawful mischief on suspicion of damaging the cars, State Police Detective Trooper Lyle Decker said.

Decker said Pion also is facing charges of leaving the scene of an accident, grossly negligent operation and aggravated assault on Newport City police on allegations of trying to back the tractor into a city cruiser after fleeing the original scene.

“It’s more than half our fleet. We have 11 cars,” Chief Deputy Sheriff Phil Brooks told the Burlington Free Press. He said the cruisers were in three rows.

He said all the vehicles were insured. Brooks estimated that the cruisers averaged about $40,000 fully equipped. He said at least one cruiser had a laptop in it. Other equipment, such as radar, were in the vehicles when the tractor ran them over.

“It’s pretty much the biggest tractor you can get,” Newport City Police Chief Seth DiSanto said.

“It was a massive tractor. It has four 6-foot tandem wheels on the back. It was red. It must be at least a 15-ton tractor,” Newport Express Publisher Ken Wells said shortly after the incident. The tractor had slightly smaller tandem tires on the front.

The tractor was owned by the suspect’s parents, Armand and Linda Pion of Newport, police said.

Brooks said five of the damaged vehicles were fully marked red, white and black cruisers, and two were unmarked, including a transport van. He said an eighth car, belonging to the department bookkeeper, was pushed out of the way by the tractor in an effort to get at the cruisers. It had minor damage.

The incident happened at about 12:40 p.m. on U.S. 5, also known as the Derby Road, near the new office for the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department. The department had moved from downtown into the former Passumpsic Savings Bank last year.

It was unclear why Pion might have taken out his wrath on the Sheriff’s Department when he was arrested by a neighboring agency. Newport police arrested Pion on July 3 on charges of resisting arrest and possession of marijuana, said DiSanto, a former Shelburne police officer in his first week as Newport chief.

Pion was issued a citation in those cases ordering him to appear in Superior Court next Tuesday, DiSanto said. Pion also was jailed that night at the request of the Vermont Probation and Parole Office.

Brooks said he and a couple deputies were inside their office Thursday when a 911 call came in — and a car horn started going off in one of the crushed cruisers.
Brooks said he ran to a nearby service station where another cruiser was being worked on and jumped in to pursue the tractor, but soon learned that Newport City police had stopped the tractor about two miles away.

Brooks said Pion was turned over to the Vermont State Police, which began conducting an independent investigation.

Brooks said a fencing company was hired Thursday to encircle the damaged cruisers, which were impounded as part of the investigation. He said a deputy would be guarding them overnight until an insurance adjuster could arrive.

Brooks said Thursday evening that the Lamoille, Chittenden and Windsor County sheriffs’ departments had loaned or were sending cruisers to help the Orleans department through the crisis. Other departments had made offers, and Brooks said the daily work loads were being studied Thursday night.

He said he expects his department, which normally transports prisoners to and from court, is likely to defer to state police Friday for this case.

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