Vermont farmer uses tractor to smash 7 police cruisers
By Mike Donoghue, Burlington
BURLINGTON, Vt. -- A Vermont farmer who was arrested last month expressed his displeasure Thursday by driving a heavy tractor over seven police vehicles, authorities said.
State police estimated the damage to the Orleans County Sheriff's Department vehicles at about $250,000. No one was hurt.
Roger Pion, 34, was being held at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport to await arraignment Friday morning on 11 charges. Bail was set at $15,000.
"It's more than half our fleet. We have 11 cars," Chief Deputy Sheriff Phil Brooks told the Burlington Free Press.
Brooks estimated that the cruisers averaged about $40,000 fully equipped.
"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, 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.
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, Newport City Police Chief Seth DiSanto said.
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 in Newport 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 2 miles away.
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 of a farm vehicle
and aggravated assault on Newport City police on allegations of trying to back the tractor into a city cruiser after fleeing the original scene.
Pion was turned over to the Vermont State Police, which is conducting an independent investigation, Brooks said.