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(NECN: Jack Thurston, Newport, Vt.) - Roger Pion, 34, was brought into court in his hometown of Newport, Vt. Friday, accused of being a one-man wrecking crew.
Police say he went on a wild rampage, flattening seven Orleans County Sheriff's Department cruisers with a large farm tractor Thursday, in a suspected act of vengeance for a recent arrest.
"It looked like he'd been to a monster truck show," said computer seller Fred Pierce, whose business is next to the Sheriff's Department headquarters in Derby that Pion allegedly targeted.
Sheriff Kirk Martin told New England Cable News he was about to enjoy a Red Sox game at Fenway Park when staff told him to rush back to Vermont.
"My first thought was, 'This is a joke,'" Martin remembered. "Then I could tell by the tone of my captain's voice it wasn't a joke. And my first concern was: Was someone hurt?"
No one was hurt, Martin said. One witness told a detective the supposed joyride lasted approximately 10 minutes, but the incident apparently went undetected until a 911 operator phoned employees on-site. Martin said his deputies inside couldn't hear the destruction in their own parking lot because the offices are in a former bank building. Martin explained that the original bank vault is still inside, and it can muffle noises from the parking lot. Air conditioners and noises from busy Route 5 may have also disguised the sound of destruction, Martin noted.
NECN observed an insurance adjustor checking out the cruisers Friday. Martin said they are valued at $40-50,000 apiece when outfitted with radar, computers, a cage, and other gear.
"We'll try to save as much as we can," Sheriff Martin said, showing NECN a vehicle with a roof forced down to just above waist-level. "But as you can see, everything's crushed."
David Sleigh, the defense lawyer for the accused car-crusher, got an extension for his client. Roger Pion now won't have to enter pleas on 14 charges until Tuesday. Judge Howard VanBenthuysen ordered Pion held on $50,000 bail. If he makes bail, VanBenthuysen ordered Pion to stay in Orleans County under the supervision of his father, and ruled that he would not be able to drive vehicles, including tractors.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Martin said he wants folks to not see this incident as some strange novelty, but as a serious case. He said Pion had a loaded gun on him and destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars of public property that more than a dozen small towns with no local police of their own rely on for patrols.
"It's no joke," Martin said. "Somebody's got to pay for it. It affects our insurance. It affects everybody."
Departments from around Vermont have loaned cruisers so Orleans County deputies can stay on the roads, Martin said.