US foils alleged plot to drive stolen truck into pedestrians: DOJ

Officials say Rondell Henry was planning to ram a U-Haul truck into pedestrians at the National Harbor in Maryland.

    'Capital Wheel' at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland [File: Evan Vucci/AP Photo]
    'Capital Wheel' at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland [File: Evan Vucci/AP Photo]

    The United States Justice Department said on Monday it had arrested a Maryland man who allegedly plotted to drive a stolen U-Haul truck into pedestrians on the sidewalks of a busy shopping and entertainment complex along the Potomac River, in a foiled plan that was inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS).

    The US Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland said it charged 28-year-old Rondell Henry of Germantown, Maryland with interstate commerce transportation of a stolen vehicle.

    It added that the government has since petitioned a federal court to arrest him pending trial after learning more about his motives.

    "I was just going to keep driving and driving and driving. I wasn't going to stop," the government quotes Henry as saying in its motion to the court seeking detention pending trial.

    A detention hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in the US District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland, before US Magistrate Judge Thomas M DiGirolamo.

    In its criminal complaint, the government said on March 26, the Alexandria Police Department in Virginia received a report about a leased U-Haul that was stolen from a nearby mall.

    The driver who rented the truck initially reported seeing a man in a blue BMW follow the U-Haul off Interstate 395 and park in a space near the U-Haul at the mall.

    When police arrived at the mall, they found the BMW still parked there and discovered it was registered to Henry.

    A day later, the stolen U-Haul was found in National Harbor, a bustling development along the Potomac in Maryland across from Alexandria, Virginia, that features bars and restaurants, shops, a Ferris wheel, a luxury hotel and residential apartments.

    Video surveillance showed Henry parking and getting out of the truck. He was arrested the next day.

    Prosecutors say Henry has harboured hatred towards non-practising Muslims and has watched multiple foreign violence videos.

    Specifically, they said he was inspired by an attack in Nice, France in 2016 in which a man drove a truck at high speed into crowds, killing 86 people.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency