Teen charged, Nazi flag seized after White House crash

·3-min read

A Missouri man who drove a rented box truck into security barriers near the White House has been charged with threatening the US president after what authorities appear to believe was a deliberate crash.

A Reuters witness saw investigators pull a Nazi swastika flag from inside the truck, which ploughed into barriers at Lafayette Square, a public area one block from the White House compound, on Monday evening (Tuesday AEST). The flag was seized by authorities.

The driver, identified as Sai Varshith Kandula, 19, of Chesterfield, Missouri, was detained by the Secret Service.

Kandula faces a battery of charges, including threatening to kill, kidnap or inflict harm on the president, vice president or a family member, the US Park Police said in a statement.

No weapons were found inside the truck, a Park Police spokesperson said.

Authorities have said nothing about what might have been behind the crash, which caused no injuries.

But ABC News, citing unnamed law enforcement sources, reported that Kandula told investigators he wanted to take over the government and kill the president. Authorities were looking into the suspect's mental health, the network reported.

Reuters could not immediately reach representatives of the Park Police or Secret Service for comment on the reports.

On Tuesday morning, there was little sign of the incident other than a black skid mark on a curb, a few Park rangers surveying the scene and some remaining TV crews.

The crash took place across the street from the Hay-Adams hotel and St. John's Episcopal Church, two of Washington's historic sites.

For decades, Lafayette Square has been a prominent site for political protests and free-speech events. It was closed off in May 2020 by a perimeter fence installed after the Black Lives Matter protests. The fence has since been removed but barriers blocking traffic from the side streets remain.

Security around the White House and other federal buildings has steadily increased after a string of breaches and other incidents, including the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol. In another incident in 2021, a vehicle struck two Capitol Police officers, killing one. The driver was shot dead by police.

After Monday's crash, a video on WUSA television showed a remote-controlled robot opening the rear door of the box-type, U-Haul truck, revealing a dolly but no other obvious cargo.

Chris Zaboji, an airline pilot who lives in Washington, shot a brief video showing the incident unfolding and posted it on social media.

Hearing a loud bang, "I looked back and saw that the U-Haul van had rammed into the barricade," Zaboji said, adding that he left the scene after the truck hit the barriers a second time.

President Joe Biden's exact location at the time of the crash was unclear. He had met with Speaker of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy at the White House earlier on Monday evening.

with AP

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