Roger Pion, 34, of Newport, was far from his father's tractor Friday. His hands in shackles as he entered the Newport courtroom, accused of crushing seven Orleans County Sheriff's Department cruisers during an afternoon rampage Thursday.
"It was like you were at a truck show watching some big foot smash trucks," Randy Mathison said.
Mathison knows Pion well and says the attack doesn't surprise him.
"He's been a farmer all his life. He probably was just upset," Mathison said.
Pion was arrested last month by Newport City police for possession of marijuana and resisting arrest. He already has 17 misdemeanor convictions, but police wouldn't say if the rampage was revenge.
Pion did not enter a plea Friday and asked that his arraignment be postponed until Tuesday. He is facing 14 criminal charges, including aggravated assault, reckless driving, unlawful mischief and leaving the scene of an accident.
To give you a sense of the size of the tractor Pion allegedly used to crush the cruisers-- the four back tires are about 6 feet tall.
"How do you stop a tractor? We are just fortunate he stopped. We are fortunate the general public wasn't hurt. We are fortunate my officers weren't hurt. We are fortunate Mr. Pion wasn't hurt," Orleans County Sheriff Kirk Martin said.
Police say Pion was carrying a loaded gun, but never drew it. Police had to draw theirs to get him to stop a few miles from the station.
"He's a real nice guy. He's been in this community a long time," Mathison said. "It's kind of hard to see him go down like this."
As for police-- they're moving past the shock and picking up the very expensive pieces. Damages are already surpassing $250,000.
"We'll roll with the punches," Martin said. "It was a big blow, but we'll come back strong."
At this point the sheriff's department has no idea how long it will to take them to replace the fleet. In the meantime, they're borrowing cruisers from counties like Windham, and Essex County is helping them out with their daily transports.
"We're still doing our job," Martin said. "There was a few hiccups this morning to get everything organized, but everything is coming off without a hitch."
And the Derby fire department is helping police salvage what they can, using the jaws of life to pry equipment out of the crushed cruisers. In the end it's going to be a costly crime for everyone in town.
"Insurance will pay for it initially," Martin said, "but it will trickle down to the taxpayers, because what insurance doesn't cover is going to come out of my coffers, which come out of my patrol budgets which the town sets for us."
Those seven totaled police cars represent more than half the department's fleet.
Pion will be back in court Tuesday to enter a plea. The judge ordered him held on $50,000 bail. If he can pay it, he'll be released into his father's custody.
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