Federal authorities on Monday unsealed charges against a Maryland man they say stole a rental van as part of an Islamic State-inspired attack on pedestrians at National Harbor, a retail and entertainment complex outside Washington.
Rondell Henry, 28, of Germantown is accused plotting to drive a stolen U-Haul van into a crowd of pedestrians at the tourist destination in Maryland’s Prince George’s County. The scheme was said to be inspired by the 2016 terrorism attack that killed 86 people and injured more than 450 others in Nice, France. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack.
“He had no escape plan, intending to die while killing others for his cause,” federal prosecutors said of Mr. Henry in a court filing.
Prosecutors say Mr. Henry, a U.S. citizen, became inspired after watching propaganda videos for the Islamic State, known by the acronym ISIS. Authorities say he harbored a hatred for “disbelievers.”
Police said he admitted to plotting the attack and planned to “keep driving and driving.”
“I wasn’t going to stop,” Mr. Henry told investigators, according to court documents.
Mr. Henry is in jail on a charge of driving the stolen U-Haul van across state lines, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
No terrorism-related counts have been filed against him.
Local police nabbed Mr. Henry on March 28 at National Harbor in possession of the van he had stolen two days earlier from a parking garage in Alexandria, Virginia, according to court records.
Court filings said Mr. Henry’s intent was to create “panic and chaos, the same as what happened in France.”
Relatives reported Mr. Henry missing on March 26 after he failed to report to his job as a computer engineer at a Maryland satellite services company. They were concerned for his “physical and emotional welfare,” according to court documents.
Mr. Henry stormed out of his job with the intent to “walk down the extremist path,” according to documents. He stole the U-Haul, leaving his own BMW behind in the process, prosecutors said.
The U-Haul van’s driver reported being followed by Mr. Henry’s blue BMW, which was found in the Alexandria garage not far from where the van was stolen. Police said the car’s registration was traced to Mr. Henry.
Prosecutors said Mr. Henry wanted to use the truck to attack “disbelievers” in a way to generate maximum publicity.
On March 27, he drove the van to Washington Dulles International Airport in search of a way to kill pedestrians. Prosecutors said Mr. Henry found the 5 a.m. crowds too sparse for his scheme. He also became frustrated when he couldn’t breach the airport security area, and he opted to scout National Harbor.
Upon arriving at National Harbor, Mr. Henry broke into a boat to hide overnight, according to court documents. The following morning, the stolen U-Haul was discovered at National Harbor.
Prince George’s County Police officers arrested Mr. Henry after they spotted him jumping over a security fence.
Mr. Henry is scheduled to appear Tuesday in federal court in Greenbelt.
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