An Indian-origin man who crashed a U-Haul truck containing a Nazi flag near the White House has been arrested and charged with trying to kill or harm the president and the vice-president, police said Tuesday.
The driver apparently drove deliberately into bollards outside Lafayette Park just before 10:00 pm (0200 GMT) on Monday, the US Park Police said, adding that no one was injured.
TV images showed a red and black swastika banner that had been found during a police search of the truck.
President Joe Biden was briefed on the situation Tuesday morning, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said. “He’s relieved that no one was injured last night and grateful to the agents and law enforcement officers who responded so quickly,” she told reporters.
The driver of the vehicle was identified as Indian-origin Sai Varshith Kandula, 19, of Chesterfield, Missouri, the Park Police said in a statement Tuesday.
It said he was charged with “assault with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, threatening to kill/kidnap/inflict harm to president, vice-president, or family member, destruction of federal property, and trespassing.”
A local affiliate of Fox News reported that some guests in a nearby hotel said they were told to evacuate after the crash.
A journalist with the station posted video from the scene showing a robot searching the cargo area of the truck.
According to ABC News, the FBI interviewed Indian-origin suspect Sai Varshith Kandula and told law enforcement that he wanted to seize power, take over the government and kill the president and the vice-president, according to three law enforcement sources.
Kandula is being held without bond and will appear in federal court Wednesday. He has not entered a plea.
The U-Haul truck crashed at about 10 pm on the north side of Lafayette Square near the White House, officials said.
Kandula was charged with five counts, including assault with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, trespassing and destruction of federal property, US Park Police said. He was also charged with threatening to kill, kidnap or inflict harm to president, vice-president or their families, police said.
Kandula allegedly traveled from St. Louis to Dulles International Airport where he rented a U-Haul truck and drove to the White House, law enforcement sources told ABC News. After ramming the bollard, Kandula exited the vehicle and began waving a flag with what authorities say appeared to be a swastika on it, and that is when officers from the US Park Police detained him.
There were no injuries to any Secret Service or White House personnel, Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesperson for the Secret Service, said in a statement.