Washington, May 24
A 19-year-old Indian-origin teen accused of deliberately crashing a rented U-Haul truck into a White House barrier told authorities that he wanted to get inside the mansion to "seize power" and "kill" US President Joe Biden, according to media reports.
US Park Police arrested Sai Varshith Kandula after he crashed the truck into the security barriers on the north side of Lafayette Park shortly before 10 pm on Monday, sending multiple pedestrians running from the scene, The Washington Times reported.
The crash was a good distance from the White House gates, but the incident prompted road and sidewalk closures, and the nearby Hay-Adams hotel had to be evacuated. No one was injured in the crash.
Kandula, of Chesterfield, Missouri, rented the truck on Monday night immediately after flying from St Louis to Dulles International Airport on a one-way ticket, a Secret Service agent said in a statement of facts filed in federal district court in Washington DC, NBC News reported.
He drove the vehicle onto a sidewalk outside the White House and into a metal barrier just north of the White House, according to the document.
Kandula put the truck in reverse and crashed into the barrier a second time before United States Park Police officers took him into custody, according to the document.
Kandula told authorities he had been planning the attack for six months and detailed the plans in a "green book," the document says.
He "stated his goal was to 'get into the White House, seize power, and be put in charge of the nation,'" the document states.
"When agents asked how he would seize power, Kandula stated he would 'kill the President if that's what I have to do and would hurt anyone that would stand in my way.'" The document was included with a criminal complaint charging Kandula with depredation of property of the United States over USD 1,000, the NBC News report said.
When Secret Service agents asked Kandula about a flag with a swastika he removed from a backpack, he allegedly said he'd bought it online because Nazis “have a great history,” according to the court document.
He allegedly said he "admires their 'authoritarian nature, Eugenics, and their one world order,'" according to the document. Kandula identified Hitler as a "strong leader" he admires, the report said.
In the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield, where Kandula lives, FBI agents were seen entering and leaving his home Tuesday and acquaintances struggled to link the alleged attack with the “chill” teen they know.
Police in Chesterfield have no records of any interaction with Kandula or calls for service to the family home, Capt Daniel Dunn, Commander for the City of Chesterfield's Bureau of Criminal Investigations, said.
Dunn said that federal agents are in charge of the investigation.
Errion Barfield, who was on the Marquette High School track team with Kandula, remembered him as quiet and unassuming.
“He was nice and chill,” Barfield said in a Facebook message to NBC News. “Ain't ever expected him to do something like that.” Kandula was a member of the sizable South Asian population of Chesterfield, a middle-class suburb about 32 kilometres west of St. Louis.
Pranav Nagila, who was a year ahead of Kandula, said he couldn't make sense of his one-time schoolmate possibly having a Nazi flag in his possession.
“I didn't see him as off-putting or anything like that,” said Nagila, who just finished his sophomore year at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “He just seemed like a chill person." Kandula appeared in Washington DC Superior Court on Tuesday and is expected to make an initial appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon.
A friend of Kandula told New York Post newspaper that he's worried about his state of mind.
The former classmate, who attended school with Kandula said, “I feel like something … either has gone badly internally inside him or maybe between the family.” Kandula was “the quiet kid” who enjoyed tennis, according to Aniket Sharma.
“He was never open to talking. And anytime I tried, he, it was just only small talk – never really anything deep. I always thought he was like a quiet, shy kid,” Sharma said.
Sharma, now a Missouri college student, rejected the notion Kandula was a white supremacist or a neo-Nazi.
Sharma spent years living in the same Chesterfield apartment complex as Kandula and his family.
Speaking about those discussing his former friend on Twitter, Sharma said they had “never even met him.” In addition to the Nazi flag, investigators recovered duct tape, a backpack and a notebook filled with writing from inside the vehicle, FOX 5 DC reported.
Investigators are probing whether mental health played a role.
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