A man from Missouri, who was driving a rented box truck, has been charged with threatening the president after intentionally crashing into security barriers near the White House. According to authorities, the incident took place at Lafayette Square, a public area located one block away from the White House compound, on Monday evening.
A Reuters witness observed investigators discovering a Nazi swastika flag inside the truck. The crash, which caused no injuries, remains under investigation, and authorities have not disclosed any possible motives. The driver, identified as 19-year-old Sai Varshith Kandula from Chesterfield, Missouri, was apprehended by the Secret Service.
The U.S. Park Police stated that Kandula is confronted with a series of charges, which include making threats to kill, kidnap, or cause harm to the president, vice president, or a member of their family.
“Preliminary investigation reveals the driver may have intentionally struck the security barriers at Lafayette Square,” according to a tweet from Secret Service spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi.
The incident occurred on the northern side of Lafayette Square’s central section, specifically across H Street from the Hay-Adams hotel and St. John’s Episcopal Church, both significant historical landmarks in the city. The following morning, there were few indications of the crash, except for a black skid mark on a curb, a small group of Park rangers observing the area, and some remaining television crews.
Lafayette Square has been a prominent location for political demonstrations and events promoting free speech for many years. In May 2020, it was closed off with a perimeter fence following the Black Lives Matter protests. Although the fence has been taken down since then, barriers preventing vehicular access from the side streets are still in place.
Security measures around the White House and other federal buildings have been progressively heightened due to a series of breaches and incidents, including the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. In another incident in 2021, a vehicle struck two Capitol Police officers, resulting in the death of one officer. The driver was subsequently shot and killed by the police.
Following Monday’s crash, a video aired on WUSA television showed a remotely operated robot opening the rear door of the rented box truck, which belonged to U-Haul. Inside, a dolly was visible, but no other obvious cargo was present.
A video capturing the incident was recorded by Chris Zaboji, an airline pilot residing in Washington, who subsequently shared it on social media.
Zaboji recounted hearing a loud noise and turning around to witness the U-Haul truck colliding with the barricade. After the truck struck the barriers for a second time, Zaboji decided to depart from the scene.
The precise whereabouts of President Joe Biden at the time of the crash, which occurred shortly before 10 p.m. (02:00 GMT on Tuesday), are not clearly known. Earlier on Monday evening, he had a meeting with Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, at the White House.