'He thought there were migrants on the bus': Guard officer pursues, confronts senior citizens




A tour bus bringing senior citizens to their East Falmouth hotel on Sept. 19 was aggressively pursued by a National Guard officer from Joint Base Cape Cod who thought the bus was carrying migrants because of a Tallahassee, Florida, sign on the side of the bus.

The off-duty officer, Lt. Col. Christopher Hoffman, 51, of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, who recorded his pursuit of the bus on Facebook Live, thought the bus was part of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' effort to bring migrants who crossed the southern U.S. border to Cape Cod. He can be heard praising DeSantis on the live stream video.

The nighttime pursuit, mainly along Route 28 south, continued for 10 or more miles from the vicinity of the Bourne Rotary to the Admiralty Inn & Suites, 51 Teaticket Highway in East Falmouth, terrifying the passengers. 

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When the bus reached the hotel, a verbal altercation occurred between Hoffman and the passengers on the bus, said Michael Vaughn, driver of the bus and owner of Mikes Limousine, a Tallahassee-based transportation company that provides buses for tour groups.

"He thought there were immigrants on the bus," Vaughn said. "He was totally wrong."

Hoffman's pursuit of the bus comes after DeSantis sent about 50 South American migrants to Martha's Vineyard unannounced on Sept. 14. The migrants were moved to Joint Base Cape Cod a few days later where the state set up a temporary shelter at the direction of Gov. Charlie Baker.

More news: Lawyers for Civil Rights explain lawsuit filed on behalf of Martha's Vineyard migrants

The Times attempted to contact Hoffman on his work cellphone. His voice mailbox was full and could not accept a phone message. He did not reply to a text sent to his work cellphone number.

Hoffman 'wouldn't leave me'

Vaughn said the truck had its high beams on during the pursuit. "He was literally five feet off my bumper," said Vaughn, "He wouldn't leave me."

Vaughn tried slowing down and changing lanes on Route 28 to let the pickup truck pass to no avail.

"He harassed us to death," said Vaughn. "Everybody was scared to death."

The Facebook video, which was shared with the Times, shows Hoffman driving at times and the bus ahead of him at other points. The bus can be seen switching lanes but when the bus switched lanes Hoffman did as well, according to the video. Hoffman has since removed the video from his Facebook page, according to police.

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Vaughn was driving 37 senior citizens from Memphis, Tennessee, who were touring Cape Cod. Once the bus pulled into the parking lot at the Admiralty Inn & Suites, Vaughn said Hoffman got out of his truck and was filming the bus with his phone.

Falmouth police called to scene of the altercation between Hoffman, tourists

Falmouth police were called to the hotel parking lot by someone associated with the bus tour. Falmouth public information officer Lt. Michael Simoneau identified the pickup truck driver as Hoffman and said no charges have been filed against him as of Tuesday morning.

According to information from the Massachusetts National Guard, Hoffman, who works full-time for the Guard, served in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011. He is stationed at Joint Base Cape Cod. His LinkedIn profile lists his job title as administrative officer.

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"The Massachusetts National Guard considers the conduct of this soldier to be inappropriate and inconsistent with our military values," Col. Mark Kalin, Commander, Massachusetts Army National Guard, said in a statement to the Times. "We are currently working to ensure our service member is evaluated and receives any services he may need, while also reviewing appropriate disciplinary actions. The incident is currently under investigation and no further information is available at this time."

In a video recording from Hoffman's Facebook live, Hoffman films himself following the bus on Route 28, south of the Bourne Bridge.

"Look at this," he said. "Tallahassee, Florida. A busload. Look at this. I'm following it all the way to the end. DeSantis bringing the border to your place."

In the video, Hoffman seemed to indicate that he saw the bus by chance.

"I saw it coming over the bridge, I'm going to follow it," he said. "I was supposed to turn it off and go home, but here we go."

In the Facebook Live video, Hoffman seems agitated about the current immigrant situation and expresses frustration about trying to bring someone from Afghanistan to the United States.

"I have an Afghan I can't even get into the country," said Hoffman. "He helped us in 2005 and 2010."

'These are senior citizens on the bus

After both vehicles arrived at the parking lot of the Admiralty Inn & Suites, Vaughn said he got out of the bus and confronted Hoffman, who appeared to be filming the bus using his phone. He said he told, Hoffman, "these are old senior citizens. You're going to give them a heart attack."

A video that was made in the parking lot captured Hoffman's encounter with Vaughn and passengers on the bus. The video was shared with the Times on the conditions that it not be published and that the name of the person who shared it not be published.

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"You're interfering with my tour," Vaughn can be heard saying.

"I want to see what's going on," Hoffman, who was not in a uniform, said.

"It's none of your business what's going on," Vaughn said.

"I have every right as a U.S citizen to see what's going on," Hoffman said. "You know what I'm talking about."

Vaughn tried to explain that it was a tour bus full of older people.

"If it's 80-year-old people, I will walk away," Hoffman said. "Do you not see what's gone on on Martha's Vineyard?"

At one point, Hoffman boarded the tour bus. "He was walking right up on the bus uninvited," said Vaughn. At that point, the passengers began yelling at Hoffman.

"These older Black women were on his a--," Vaughn said.

'I served in Afghanistan'

In a video from the bus, Hoffman tells the passengers, "I served in Afghanistan, and I'm trying to get an Afghan, and I can't get him into the country. So don't tell me you don't know what I'm talking about."

As an angry response from passengers continued, Hoffman appeared to realize that the bus didn't contain migrants.

"I am sorry," said Hoffman. "I didn't respect you guys. I am sorry."

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Shortly thereafter, Hoffman left the bus and encountered Falmouth police.

In the video filmed in the inn parking lot, Hoffman is asked if he had been drinking by a police officer. "No," replied Hoffman.

The Falmouth Police Department report about the incident, written by Det. Christopher Bartolomei, said Hoffman may have been impaired and perhaps was suffering from some sort of mental health situation.

"When he looked at me, he looked through me not at me," the report says.

"He was not making sense and he attempted to control the conversation and talked about him trying to get someone from Afghanistan to the United States. The way he talked it made it sound like he was connected somehow with the migrants on the base," the report says, later adding, "Something seemed very off with him."

After calming down a bit, Hoffman told police what had happened. "He stated he was driving and saw the bus go around the rotary on the highway. He stated he got upset because the bus had Tallahassee on it, and he thought it was more migrants coming from Florida and began following it. He stated he got upset and followed the bus. He spoke about a friend that he could not get over from Afghanistan and he got emotional about this and was mad that the migrants were here and not his friend. He seemed passionate about this."

Why they come: Venezuelans migrating to the U.S. and now to Martha's Vineyard: 'Out of desperation'

The police report also mentions Hoffman's Facebook Live video. "I informed Hoffman he was on Facebook Live, and he wanted help taking it down. I informed him I did not know how to do that and would not do that. He eventually figured it out and took it off."

The video from the live stream that was shared with the Times was copied prior to Hoffman removing the video from his Facebook page.

According to Vaughn, Hoffman was taken away by ambulance and his truck was towed.

Vaughn was incredulous at the turn of events. "This is crazy," he said. "2.3 million miles of driving a bus and I've never been stalked."

Contact Eric Williams at ewilliams@capecodonline.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CapeCast.

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: MA National Guard officer chased bus believing it was migrants from FL

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