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.