WASHINGTON: A Missouri man drove a rented box truck into security barriers near the White House on Monday evening and was charged with threatening the president after what authorities appear to believe was a deliberate crash.

A witness saw investigators pull a Nazi swastika flag from inside the truck, which plowed into barriers at Lafayette Square, a public area one block from the White House compound.

President Joe Biden’s exact location at the time of the crash just before 10pm (0200 GMT Tuesday) was unclear. He had met Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy at the White House earlier on Monday evening.

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 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.

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.