MARYLAND, United States, Wednesday April 10, 2019 – A Trinidadian-born man has been accused in the United States of plotting to plow a stolen van into a crowd at a large shopping and entertainment compound outside of Washington, in what prosecutors said was an ISIS-inspired attack.
According to court documents, 28-year-old Rondell Henry, a naturalized US citizen who lives in Maryland, allegedly admitted to the plot after being arrested on March 28. The charging documents have only just been unsealed. He has been charged with interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Although Henry faces no terrorism charges, court documents detail terrorism-related accusations. According to prosecutors’ detention memo, Henry stole a U-Haul van with the intention of using it as a weapon against pedestrians on sidewalks within the National Harbour complex along the Potomac River in Maryland.
Prosecutors said that for two years, he harboured “hatred” for those who do not practice the Muslim faith. And, allegedly inspired by videos he watched of foreign terrorists, he decided to conduct a vehicular attack similar to the 2016 truck attack in Nice, France, for which ISIS claimed responsibility.
“He had no escape plan, intending to die while killing others for his cause,” the detention memo stated.
According to the criminal complaint and other court documents, on March 26, the Alexandria Police Department was contacted concerning a leased U-Haul vehicle that had been stolen from a parking garage at a mall in Alexandria, Virginia. The driver who had rented the U-Haul vehicle had noticed a man driving a blue BMW follow the U-Haul off Interstate 395 and onto mall property, then follow the U-Haul into the parking garage and park a few spaces away. When police responded to the garage, they found the BMW near where the U-Haul had been stolen. A check of the BMW’s registration records revealed that the BMW was registered to Henry.
The next day, the stolen U-Haul was located at the National Harbour in Maryland. Before he arrived at the Maryland complex, however, Henry spent nearly two hours at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia on March 27, assessing crowds there.
However, he found too few people for the scale of the attack he envisioned and moved on to National Harbour where he parked the U-Haul and walked around a popular part of National Harbour before breaking into a boat to hide overnight.
Henry wanted to create “panic and chaos” at National Harbour, the “same as what happened in France”, the detention memo said.
However, by the following morning, police officers had discovered the location of the stolen U-Haul, and when Henry jumped over the security fence from the boat dock, they arrested him.