WASHINGTON (AP) — A Missouri man flew to Washington, rented a U-Haul truck, and drove straight to the White House, where he rammed the truck into a security barrier and, at the end of half a year, began waving a Nazi flag around their plan to “snatch power from the government,” authorities said on Tuesday.
Sai Varshith Kandula, 19, took the flag from a backpack just after crashing the van into the barrier near the north side Lafayette Square on Monday around 10 p.m., according to the loading documents. He was quickly apprehended by a U.S. Park Police officer, who rushed to the scene of the accident and saw him taking out the flag.
Kandula later told Secret Service agents that he flew on a one-way ticket from St. Louis that evening after months of planning. He wanted to “get into the White House, seize power and take responsibility for the nation,” and he said he would “kill the President if that’s what I have to do,” the indictment said.
Kandula, who is from Chesterfield, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, said he bought the flag online because he understood the “great history” of the Nazis, as well as their “authoritarian nature, eugenics and one-world order.” “ admire.
Nobody was injured in the crash. No explosives or weapons were found in the truck or on Kandula.
Kandula rented the U-Haul in Herndon, Virginia and had a valid contract in his own name, the company said. According to U-Haul, you can rent a truck from U-Haul as young as 18, and there were no warnings on his rental record that prevented him from getting the deal.
A witness, Chris Zaboji, said the driver crashed into the guardrail at least twice. Zaboji, a 25-year-old pilot who lives in Washington, was finishing a run near Lafayette Square when he heard the loud crash of the U-Haul truck crashing into the barrier. He said he pulled out his phone and captured the moment the truck crashed into the barrier again before hearing the sirens approach.
“When the van backed up and hit him again, I decided I wanted out of there,” he said.
Secret Service and Metropolitan Police Department officers searched the truck after the accident. Video posted by WUSA TV shows a police officer at the scene collecting and making an inventory of several pieces of evidence from the truck, including a Nazi flag.
Kandula was arrested on multiple charges and prosecutors charged him with damaging US property.
Biden was briefed on the crash by Secret Service and park police Tuesday morning, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “He’s relieved that no one was hurt last night,” she said.
The US Secret Service is monitoring hundreds of people who have threatened the President. However, it’s not clear if Kandula was even on their radar, or if he had threatened the president before, which would trigger Secret Service involvement.
No attorney was listed for Kandula on court records, several phone numbers listed under his last name in public records were out of service and efforts by The Associated Press to reach relatives who could speak on his behalf Tuesday were not immediately successful. People at a Missouri home linked to Kandula declined to speak to an AP reporter.
Lafayette Square offers perhaps the best public view of the White House, and Kandula sent several people fleeing as he pulled onto the sidewalk to reach the cordon.
The square has also long been one of the most famous demonstration sites in the country. The park was closed for nearly a year after federal authorities sealed off the area at the height of nationwide anti-policing protests following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis Reopening in May 2021.
U-Haul is a Phoenix-based truck, trailer, and self-storage moving company.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jim Salter in Chesterfield, Missouri, Colleen Long and Michael Balsamo in Washington, and news producer Beatrice Dupuy in New York.