IIt was a warm spring night Washington DC when a U-tractor truck suddenly slammed into security gates nearby White House.
The driver, who must have had one nazi flag, then made threatening statements about the building as the president Joe Biden calls home.
Now, the male suspect – 19-year-old Sai Varshith Kandula – has been arrested on charges of threatening to kill or injure the President, Vice President Kamala Harris or any of their family members.
Details are so far scarce, with the driver’s possible motives and plans still unclear. According to ABC News, Mr. Kandula flew from Missouri to Dulles International Airport, rented the truck and drove to the White House with the intention of harming the President. Mr Kandula reportedly told officers he wanted to take over the government.
The incident will no doubt set off alarm bells around Capitol Hill — coming at a time when lawmakers and government officials have faced growing threats and just two years after Donald Trump’s supporters successfully stormed the US Capitol in the Jan. 6 riot.
Here’s what we know so far about Monday’s incident.
The incident unfolded around 9:40 p.m. Monday night when the white U-Haul truck crashed into the security barriers on the north side of Lafayette Square at 16th Street, US Park Police said.
The crash happened just a few hundred yards from the White House, where Biden had held talks with Senate Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy just hours earlier.
US Park Police and US Secret Service Uniform Division officers responded to the scene to find a truck believed to have crashed intentionally into bollards outside Lafayette Park.
A video posted by eyewitness Chris Zaboji appears to show the truck driving into the barricades once and then driving into them a second time.
Zaboji, an airline pilot who lives in Washington, said he was walking home after jogging on the National Mall when he heard a loud crash.
He took out his phone to capture what was going on.
“I looked back and saw that the U-Haul had driven into the barricade. I backed up behind a guy on a golf cart and took the video on my phone,” he told Reuters.
“After I saw it rammed again, I didn’t want to be anywhere near the truck and left.”
Nazi paraphernalia and threats
A police source told NBC News that Mr. Kandula made threatening statements about the White House at the scene but was quickly apprehended by law enforcement — after which, according to reporting by CNN he praised Adolf Hitler. According to court documents, Kandula also praised eugenics, saying the Nazis “have a great history.”
Police found a Nazi flag in the truck Mr. Kandula was driving, according to pictures taken by one Reuters photojournalist.
After a search of the truck, officials found it contained no weapons or explosives. There were no injuries in the crash and there is no ongoing danger to the public, officials said.
“There were no injuries to any Secret Service or White House personnel and the cause and manner of the crash remain under investigation,” Anthony Guglielmi, Secret Service communications director, said in a statement Monday night.
US Park Police released the identity of the driver – Sai Varshith Kandula, 19, of Chesterfield, Missouri.
While police have yet to elaborate on Kandula’s motive, US Park Police spokesman Thomas Twiname said in a statement that he had been arrested and charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, threats to kill, kidnap or inflict injury. on a president, vice president or family member, destruction of federal property and trespassing.
Moment truck drives into barriers near White House grounds
Mr Twiname said the preliminary investigation suggests the driver “deliberately” crashed into the safety barriers.
Mr. Kandula appeared in court in Washington on Tuesday, but has not yet entered a plea.
Threats against officials
It’s not clear if the president and first lady were home at the time of the incident, which comes amid a surge in potential threats against politicians.
Data from the Capitol Police revealed that the agency had investigated about 7,500 cases of potential threats against members of Congress in 2022.
While that was lower than the 9,600 threats recorded in 2021, it was twice as many as in 2017.
In October, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center and the US Capitol Police sent a joint intelligence bulletin to law enforcement partners across the country warning of an increase in domestic violent extremism (DVE) and “perceptions” that election fraud could lead to an increase in violence.
Among the most “attractive targets” for extremists are lawmakers, government officials and staff involved in elections, including both political candidates and election workers, it warned.
“Possible targets of DVE violence include candidates running for public office, elected officials, election workers, political rallies, representatives of political parties, racial and religious minorities, or perceived ideological opponents,” the bulletin said.
On the same day – October 28, 2022 – the husband of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi was the victim of a violent hammer attack at the couple’s home in California.
David DePape, a 42-year-old hemp jewelry maker, allegedly broke into the couple’s San Francisco home in the early hours of the morning to look for Pelosi.
Pelosi’s husband Paul Pelosi, 82, was home alone with his wife away in Washington DC at the time.
Mr. Pelosi managed to call 911 but the suspect allegedly hit him in the head with a hammer when officers arrived.
This came over a year after the January 6 riot in the Capitol on January 6, 2021 when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol – fueled by his lies that the presidential election was “stolen” from him – to try to overturn Joe Biden’s win.
Chilling footage from that day reveals how some of the rioters chased after Pelosi, chanting “Where’s Nancy?” when they searched her office.
Others were seen chanting “Hang Mike Pence” after the vice president refused to try to overturn the election in Trump’s favor.