Federal prosecutors say a man inspired by the Islamic State group stole a U-Haul truck with plans to drive it into a crowd at National Harbor, the popular dining and entertainment hang out just outside of Washington, D.C.
The allegation was made in a court filing Monday as prosecutors in Maryland urged a judge to keep the defendant, Rondell Henry, 28, detained on a charge of driving a stolen vehicle across state lines.
Authorities say Henry admitted that he wanted to create “panic and chaos” and that his plans for a truck attack were modeled after a deadly attack in Nice, France in July 2016..
Prosecutors say Henry told officers he was “just going to keep driving and driving and driving” and didn’t plan on stopping.
“For two years, the defendant has harbored ‘hatred’ (in his words) for ‘disbelievers’ who do not practice the Muslim faith,” prosecutors wrote in a motion for detention filed on Monday. “Seeking out and watching videos of foreign terrorists beheading civilians and fighting overseas, the defendant considered these gruesome actions brave and wanted to emulate them.”
Prosecutors said in a filing Monday that Henry walked off his computer engineering job on March 26 in the middle of the day “determined to walk down the extremist path.” They said he recognized his four-door sedan would not “cause the catastrophic damage that he desired,” so he drove around the D.C. area looking for a larger vehicle to steal. They said he found a U-Haul van and stole it, before driving around and “assessing target locations” he had already decided would attract substantial media coverage.
According to court documents, the early the next day he went to Dulles International Airport in Virginia to attack, but “at that early hour, the airport lacked the large number of unloading pedestrians the defendant hoped to find.”
Prosecutors said in court documents Henry got out of the truck and tried to get into the airport by piggy-backing on a cleared person, but failed. He also looked for weak spots to slip in and tried to get paperwork from a check-in kiosk.
“After two hours of failing to breach Dulles’ security perimeter,” prosecutors wrote, “the defendant returned to the U-Haul and his original plan of driving through a crowd.”
He drove to the National Harbor in Maryland, arriving at about 10 a.m. on March 27, according to court documents.
Again, there was not a sizable crowd at his chosen destination, so he planned his “ideal spot to attack,” according to prosecutors, then broke into a boat and hid “until the time was right.”
By the following morning, according to court documents, police had discovered the location of the missing U-Haul and were waiting for whoever took it to return. When Henry jumped over the security fence from the boat dock, police officers arrested him.
“The officers, instead of just handing that as a stolen vehicle, looked deeper,” Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski said at a press conference on Monday night of the arrest. “Prince George’s County is a safe destination and this is a safe venue here at National Harbor.”
The court filing says Henry had no escape plan and instead intended to die while driving into pedestrians at National Harbor.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Henry had a lawyer. According to court documents, he made several of the above statements after being read his Miranda rights. It also was not immediately clear if prosecutors intended to add charges based on his incriminating statements.
Henry allegedly modeled his planned attack after what happened in Nice, France on July 14, 2016. A terrorist drove a cargo truck into a large crowd on the Promenade des Anglais, killing 86 people and injuring more than 450 others.
Henry is scheduled to have a detention hearing at 12:45 p.m. on April 9, 2019.
Update: The failed jihadi is being held without bond.
More religion of peace via: Maryland man inspired by Islamic State stole truck with plot to ram into “disbelievers”
The government’s six-page detention motion describes Henry as harboring hatred for “disbelievers” and looking to emulate Islamic State militants he saw on beheading videos and fighting overseas. On his phone, which prosecutors say he discarded on a highway in an apparent attempt to conceal evidence, authorities found images of the ISIS flag, armed ISIS fighters and the man who carried out the massacre in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub three years ago.
Acquaintances of Henry expressed surprise at the allegations.
Osman Alaalla, 61, came to pray Monday evening at a 5 p.m. service at the Islamic Society of Germantown. He said Henry typically led that service. Alaalla described Henry as a quiet, nice man but said he didn’t know anything about his personal life. He said he would come to pray and leave.
“He’s very peaceful,” he said.
Of course, peaceful. We warned Americans about that very mosque when it opened, Maryland: Mosque opens in Germantown, will include an Islamic slaughterhouse.
On November 8, 2014 with much fanfare this dream was realized. The Islamic Society of Germantown opened its doors to politicians, imams, and hundreds of visitors and most importantly to those who had been waiting for the past 13 years…
Who could have predicted that less than five years later the mosque would produce a Muslim terrorist who wanted to kill as many Americans as he could?