Truck crashes into security barriers near White House; driver arrested
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Truck crashes into security barriers near White House; driver arrested

Dec 01, 2023

The 19-year-old Missouri man accused of driving a truck into barriers near the White House made incriminating statements that indicated to investigators that he was seeking to harm the president, officials said Tuesday.

The driver was Sai Varshith Kandula of Chesterfield, U.S. Park Police said Tuesday morning.

The charges against Kandula for allegedly "threatening to kill, kidnap, inflict harm on a president, vice president, or family member," stem from statements he made to multiple law enforcement agencies, according to a Secret Service representative.

President Joe Biden was in the White House when the truck crashed outside, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday. He had met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy Monday night to discuss the debt limit.

But it wasn't clear if Biden was informed of the incident as it unfolded. The Secret Service and Park Police briefed him Tuesday morning, according to Jean-Pierre.

"He's relieved that no one was injured last night and grateful to the agent and law enforcement officer who responded so quickly," she told reporters

The suspect was interviewed by Secret Service investigators Monday night, the agency representative said, during the investigation that also involves United States Park Police, the FBI and U.S. Capitol Police.

Kandula was further charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a motor vehicle and trespassing.

Authorities said the preliminary investigation indicates Kandula "intentionally crashed" into the bollards outside Lafayette Park. A Nazi flag was seized by authorities at the scene of the incident.

A law enforcement official told NBC News that the suspect made threatening statements about the White House at the scene but was quickly detained. The truck did not contain weapons or explosives, the official said, without providing further details.

Asked for their reaction, the official said: "I don't think there's any place for a Nazi flag or the statements that he made."

The white U-Haul box truck crashed into the barriers on the north side of Lafayette Square, a few hundred feet from the White House, just before 10 p.m. ET.

A bystander appeared to capture on his cellphone the moment when a 26-foot U-Haul truck jumped a curb but couldn't fit through barriers set on the sidewalk.

"There were no injuries to any Secret Service or White House personnel and the cause and manner of the crash remain under investigation," Anthony Guglielmi, the Secret Service chief of communications, said in a statement Monday night.

Guglielmi said in a later statement posted to Twitter that the truck had been deemed safe by Washington D.C. police and that "preliminary investigation reveals the driver may have intentionally struck the security barriers."

The Reuters news agency published an image showing a Nazi-style red flag emblazoned with a swastika laid on the ground beside the van. Reuters, citing its own photographer on the scene and a witness, reported that the items apparently taken from the truck had been placed on the sidewalk and were seized by officers.

Video footage later showed a robot opening the back of the truck, which appeared to be empty.

Patrick Smith is a London-based editor and reporter for NBC News Digital.

Kristen Welker is chief White House correspondent for NBC News.