Officers walk past crushed cruisers at the Orleans County Sheriff's… (Scott Wheeler / Northland…)
Deputies with the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department were rousted from a quiet Thursday afternoon in their Newport, Vt., office this week by a car alarm – from their own parking lot.
Two deputies bolted for the door. In the back lot, they found five cruisers, one transport van and another department vehicle crushed on the concrete like soon-to-be-recycled cans.
They also saw a large tractor rumbling down the road and out of sight.
Without cars, the deputies couldn’t start a car chase, so they set out on foot. The tractor, although certainly not fast, quickly outdistanced them.
Then a motorist pulled up beside the jogging men. “What are you guys doing?” he asked. One of the deputies explained. “Jump in,” the man said.
With the help of the driver and the Newport Police Department, the deputies stopped the tractor and arrested its driver, 34-year-old Roger Pion, at gunpoint.
Sheriff Kirk Martin got the call about the incident around 1 p.m. Thursday as he was headed toward Fenway Park in Boston to watch the Red Sox play the Minnesota Twins.
“You’ve got to come home,” his captain said, according to Martin. “I’ve never seen anything like it. The cars – they’re gone. They’re gone.”
The air conditioner had been humming, deputies said, so they didn’t hear the demolition derby out back. When a car alarm went off and a 911 call came in, they ran outside to see the tractor clipping down U.S. 5 – nicknamed Derby Road – at 40 mph.
Martin missed the game. (The Sox lost.)
Pion, a local farmer, was obviously disgruntled, Martin said Friday. Less clear is why he would have taken out his frustration on the Sheriff’s Department. He had been arrested in July on charges of resisting arrest and possession of marijuana, Martin said, but the arrest was made by local police, not the Sheriff’s Department.
The vendetta appears to have solely been against law enforcement, however. Officials said Pion, who was armed with a revolver at the time of his arrest, pushed deputies’ personal cars out of the way before starting in on the cruisers.
In court Friday, Pion declined to enter a plea for 14 charges, including seven felony counts of unlawful mischief. He’s being held on $50,000 bail.
The damage to the vehicles and the equipment inside was around $250,000. No one was hurt, and all the cars were insured.
Adjusters declared the vehicles totaled Friday. Until they can be replaced, deputies are using five borrowed cars from other sheriff’s departments in Vermont.
When Martin returned from court proceedings Friday, his voice mail was full. Of the 16 messages, 13 were from car sales representatives.