Driver Accused of Crashing Truck Near White House Charged With Threat to Kill President

Lorenz Duchamps
By Lorenz Duchamps
May 23, 2023USshare

A 19-year-old man driving a rented box truck was arrested by the Secret Service on Monday night after he crashed the vehicle into security barriers near the White House, according to officials.

In a statement on May 23, U.S. Park Police said Sai Varshith Kandula of Chesterfield, Missouri was arrested on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, the threat to kill, kidnap, or inflict bodily harm on a president, vice president, or family, destruction of federal property, and trespassing.

Members of the Secret Service Uniform Division and U.S. Park Police responded to calls on May 22 at approximately 9:40 p.m. about a U-Haul truck driver who “intentionally crashed into the bollards” on the outside of Lafayette Park, according to a preliminary investigation.

Anthony Guglielmi, chief of communications for the Secret Service, also confirmed the incident in a statement on Twitter, saying there were no injuries to Secret Service officials or White House personnel.

“The cause and manner of the crash remain under investigation,” Guglielmi said. “Road closures are in effect and pedestrian walkways are closed as we investigate.”

Guglielmi said in a separate Twitter post that the truck had been “deemed safe” by the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. The Secret Service spokesman also said a preliminary investigation indicates the driver “intentionally struck” the security barriers on the north side of Lafayette Square, which is located directly north of the White House.

The exact location of President Joe Biden at the time of the crash was unclear. Biden met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at the White House earlier on Monday to discuss the debt ceiling and cutting federal spending, paving the way for negotiators from both sides to iron out a deal.

Huge Security Alert

A spokesperson for the Washington Fire Department said a call came in Monday night for what was described as a suspicious package investigation. Soon after, there was a major law enforcement and public safety response before investigators determined the contents of the mostly empty truck were harmless.

Chris Zaboji, an eyewitness to the crash, posted video footage on social media showing the U-Haul box truck driving into the barricades. The video shows the driver initially crashing into the barricades before continuing to attempt to move forward following the initial crash.

Zaboji, a 25-year-old airline pilot who lives in Washington, said he had just finished jogging on the National Mall and was walking home when he heard a loud crash.

NTD Photo
A box truck crashes into security barriers on Lafayette Square adjacent to the White House grounds in Washington on May 22, 2023, in this screen grab obtained from a social media video. (Chris Zaboji/via Reuters)
NTD Photo
A Nazi-style flag and other objects recovered from a rented box truck are pictured on the ground as the U.S. Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies investigate the truck that crashed into security barriers at Lafayette Park across from the White House in Washington on May 23, 2023. (Nathan Howard/Reuters)

“I looked back and saw that the U-Haul van had rammed into the barricade. I backed away behind a guy on a golf cart and took the video on my phone. After I saw it rammed again I didn’t want to be anywhere near the truck and left,” Zaboji said.

Meanwhile, photographs show a Nazi-style flag laying near the vehicle. Footage from a local photojournalist shows a law enforcement officer folding up the flag, which had been spread out on the ground in public view.

Officers retrieved the flag and plastic evidence bags that had been laid out on the sidewalk following the crash and placed them in the back of the U-Haul, a Reuters photographer said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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