A “Nazi-admiring” teenager has been charged for allegedly threatening to kill or harm US President Joe Biden after he crashed a pick-up truck into a security barrier near the White House.
The suspect, identified as Sai Varshith Kandula, 19, began waving around a Nazi flag after crashing his truck outside Lafayette Park just before 10pm (02:00 GMT) on Monday.
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No one was injured in the crash. No explosives or weapons were found in the truck or on Kandula believed to be of Indian origin.
Biden was briefed on the crash on Tuesday morning by the Secret Service and Park Police, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “He’s relieved that no one was injured last night,” she said.
TV images showed a red and black swastika banner that had been found during a police search of the truck.
A witness, Chris Zaboji, said the driver smashed into the barrier at least twice. Zaboji, a 25-year-old pilot who lives in Washington, DC, was finishing a run near Lafayette Square when he heard the loud crash of the U-Haul truck hitting the barrier. He said he took out his phone and captured the moment the truck struck the barrier again before he heard sirens approaching.
“When the van backed up and rammed it again, I decided I wanted to get out of there,” he said.
Admired the Nazis
Kandula later told Secret Service agents that he’d flown from St Louis on a one-way ticket that night after months of planning.
He wanted to “get to the White House, seize power, and be put in charge of the nation”, and he said he would “kill the president, if that’s what I have to do”, as per the charges.
Prosecutors have slapped multiple charges on Kandula, including “assault with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, threatening to kill/kidnap/inflict harm on a president, vice president, or family member, destruction of federal property, and trespassing”.
Kandula, who is from the St Louis suburb of Chesterfield, Missouri, said he bought the flag online because he admires the Nazis’ “great history” as well as their “authoritarian nature, eugenics, and their one world order”.
Kandula rented the truck in Herndon, Virginia, and had a valid contract in his name, the company said. People can rent a truck from U-Haul at the age of 18, and there were no red flags on his rental record that would have prevented the contract, according to the rental company.
No lawyer was listed for Kandula in court records, and multiple telephone numbers listed under his surname in public records were out of service.
Lafayette Square offers perhaps the best view of the White House available to the public, and Kandula sent multiple people running when he drove onto the sidewalk to reach the barrier.
The square has also long been one of the nation’s most prominent venues for demonstrations. The park was closed for nearly a year after federal authorities fenced off the area at the height of nationwide protests over policing following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but it reopened in May 2021.