NEWPORT - Thought traffic could not get any worse in Newport? Well, Thursday afternoon a bizarre course of events made traffic far, far worse. In a bit of redirection that would make David Copperfield proud, most drivers and pedestrians alike were distracted by the sight of a 10 1/2 foot high, Case MX 255 Tractor being pursued by police officers, many of whom were on foot.
Apparently, a disgruntled individual who had been arrested in July by the Orleans County Sheriff's Department, decided to retaliate in a highly destructive and dramatic manner by pulverizing seven vehicles, most of them cruisers, parked at the sheriff's department's offices on US 5 in Newport.
Law enforcement officers report that Roger Pion, 34, a local farmer, is under arrest and charged with the destruction, which left deputies hanging their heads and not sure whether to laugh or cry. Six of the sheriff's fleet of 11 cruisers were totaled, many of them the newest models.
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Suspected demolition tractor operator Pion piloted this behemoth piece of agricultural machinery up US Route 5, passing Cumberland Farms, and turning into the sheriff's parking lot across from The Farm Store.
The spectacle was witnessed by United Christian Academy senior Mark Quirion, 17, of Coventry, who works at the Mountain Farm View Stand across the road. He noticed the tractor but thought nothing of it, having seen the same piece of machinery travel the same road on prior occasions. When the tractor turned into the sheriff's station, Mark said, â€śI saw him back it up some and then drive it up and over the top of one of the cars parked in the lot. It was then that I really knew something very unusual was going on at the sheriff's station.â€ť
Inside the station, deputies were not immediately aware of what was going on because of the soundproof nature of the building, until a 911 call came in to alert them that they were under attack in their own parking lot.
Pion had, by this time, circled around to the back portion of the lot where officers and staff typically park their personal vehicles. In one instance, he caused a relatively small amount of damage (especially when put in perspective of the larger picture) to a red truck belonging to the station's bookkeeper. The truck was damaged when Pion apparently attempted to push it out of the way to prevent it from being smashed. Similarly, Pion positioned three cruisers and the transit van directly next to one another in a car line - reminiscent of those seen at Monster truck rallies - before again throttling the tractor up and driving it over the vehicles.
By this time, Mark Quirion had made his way from the stand to a closer vantage point across the road. From there, he saw Pion go up and over the car pile and then reverse back over it. At that point, Pion exited the station.
With the cruisers crushed, most deputies pursued the tractor by foot; but two others, who had been out with their cruiser, returned and gave chase. They were joined by civilian Mike Riendeau, whose car had been commandeer by deputies in pursuit with Riendeau as driver.
Pion was finally apprehended at gunpoint on The Causeway in Newport in front of Passumpsic Bank, where he put the tractor into reverse, causing the pursuit vehicle to take evasive action and cause another minor collision.