By LINDSAY WHITEHURST (Associated Press)
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Missouri man flew to Washington, rented a U-Haul truck, and drove straight to the White House, where he crashed the truck into a security fence and began waving a Nazi flag at the end of a six-month period. plan to “take power” from the government, authorities announced on Tuesday.
Sai Varshith Kandula, 19, removed the flag from a backpack shortly after the van truck crashed into the barrier near the north side of Lafayette Square around 10 p.m. Monday, according to charging documents. He was quickly arrested by a US Park Police officer who rushed to the scene of the accident and saw him pull out the flag.
Kandula later told Secret Service agents that he flew in from St. Louis one-way that night after months of planning. He wanted to “go to the White House, take power, and be in charge of the nation,” and he said he would “kill the president, if that’s what I have to do,” the charges state.
Kandula, who is from the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield, Missouri, said he bought the flag online because he admired the “great history” of the Nazis as well as their “authoritarian nature, their eugenics and their one world order”.
No one was injured in the accident. No explosives or weapons were found in the truck or on Kandula.
Kandula rented the U-Haul in Herndon, Va., and had a valid contract in his own name, the company said. People can rent a truck from U-Haul at 18, and there were no red flags on his 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 released 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.
Kandula was arrested on multiple counts and prosecutors accused him of damaging US property.
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 made threats against 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 offers perhaps the best view of the White House available to the public, and Kandula sent several people running when he drove down the sidewalk to reach the barrier.
The square has also long been one of the most important event venues 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.