Teen charged with deliberately crashing U-Haul truck into guardrail in park near White House

Teen charged with deliberately crashing U-Haul truck into guardrail in park near White House

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Missouri man rented a U-Haul truck Monday night and then crashed it into a security fence across from the White House hours later, authorities said Tuesday.

The truck driver crashed into the barrier near the north side of Lafayette Square around 10 p.m. Monday, the Secret Service said in a statement. He has been identified as Sai Varshith Kandula, 19, of Chesterfield, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.

No one was injured in the accident.

After the crash, Kandula climbed out of the truck with a Nazi flag and began screaming as park police and Secret Service agents approached him, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. When questioned by investigators, Kandula said he was there to seize power and wanted to kill President Joe Biden, the people said. The people were not authorized to publicly discuss specific details of the investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Kandula rented the U-Haul truck around 6:30 p.m. in Herndon, Va., and had a valid contract in his own name, the company said. People must be 18 to rent a truck from U-Haul, and there were no red flags on its rental record that would have prevented the contract, according to U-Haul.

A witness, Chris Zaboji, said the driver crashed into the barrier at least twice. Zaboji, a 25-year-old driver who lives in Washington, was finishing a run near Lafayette Square when he heard the sound of the U-Haul truck hitting the barrier. He said he took out his phone and captured the moment the truck hit the barrier again before he heard sirens approaching.

“When the van backed up and hit it again, I decided I wanted to get out of there,” he said.

Secret Service and Metropolitan Police Department agents searched the truck after the crash. Video published by WUSA-TV shows a police officer at the scene picking up and inventorying several pieces of evidence from the truck, including a Nazi flag.

Based on a preliminary investigation, investigators believe the driver “may have intentionally hit the Lafayette Square security barriers”, the Secret Service said. Authorities have not provided any further details on a possible motive.

United States Park Police said Kandula was arrested on multiple counts, including threatening to kill, kidnap, or harm a president, vice president, or their family member; assault with a dangerous weapon; dangerous driving; destruction of federal property; and intrusion.

Biden was briefed on the crash Tuesday morning by the Secret Service and Park Police, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “He’s relieved no one was hurt last night,” she said.

The US Secret Service is monitoring hundreds of people who have had discussions with the President, but it is unclear if Kandula was on their radar or if he had ever threatened the President, which would trigger Secret Service involvement. .

No attorney was listed for Kandula in court records, several phone numbers listed under his last name in public records were out of service, and The Associated Press’s efforts to reach relatives who could speak on his behalf on Tuesday were not immediately successful. People in a Missouri home listed as being associated with Kandula would not speak with an AP reporter.

Lafayette Square, which offers perhaps the best view of the White House available to the public, has long been one of the most important protest locations in the country. The park was closed for nearly a year after federal authorities fenced off the area at the height of nationwide protests against police following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but it reopened in May 2021..

U-Haul is a moving truck, trailer and self-storage rental company based in Phoenix.


Associated Press writers Jim Salter in Chesterfield, Missouri, Colleen Long and Michael Balsamo in Washington, and news producer Beatrice Dupuy in New York contributed to this report.

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