A radicalized Muslim planned to carry out a “Nice-style attack” on pedestrians at Maryland’s National Harbor, prosecutors said on Monday, after authorities arrested him for stealing a rental truck.
Authorities arrested Rondell Henry, 28, of Germantown, Maryland, late last month after surveillance footage showed him parking and getting on a U-Haul truck recently reported as stolen.
“He said he wanted to carry out a Nice-style attack,” one law enforcement official said, in reference to the devastating 2016 terror attack in southern France that killed 86 pedestrians and injured a further 450 in an act that was claimed by the Islamic State group.
According to federal prosecutors, Henry became radicalized after watching various jihadi propaganda videos and said he wanted to punish “disbelievers” in the Muslim faith. Members of his family had recently reported him missing after he failed to turn up for his work as a contractor at a satellite services company in Maryland, telling authorities they had become concerned for his “physical and emotional welfare.”
“The defendant, inspired by the ISIS terrorist organization and prepared to die for his cause, stole a vehicle with the intent of ‘plowing it through a crowd full of people’ at the National Harbor,” prosecutors wrote in court documents. “He must be detained pending trial.”
“For two years, the defendant has harbored ‘hatred’ (in his words) for ‘disbelievers’ who do not practice the Muslim faith. Seeking out and watching videos of foreign terrorists beheading civilians and fighting overseas, the defendant considered these gruesome actions brave and he wanted to emulate them,” they continued.
BREAKING: Federal authorities have charged 28yo Rondell Henry of Germantown, Md., alleging he stole a UHaul van and planned to use it to run over a large group of people at National Harbor.
“He harbored hatred for those who do not practice the Muslim faith,” authorities say. pic.twitter.com/n9qScYnpqX
— Kevin Lewis (@ABC7Kevin) April 8, 2019
Henry, who is a U.S. citizen, allegedly planned to carry out his attack at Washington’s Dulles International Airport but proved unable to find his way through security. He then turned his attention to National Harbor – a waterfront area with a convention center, hotels, shops, a casino, and restaurants that recently held the annual Conservative Political Action Conference attended by President Donald Trump and other influential figures.
“But so early in the morning on a weekday, the defendant did not find the sizable crowd upon which he desired to inflict his radical conduct,” prosecutors said. “He parked the U-Haul and walked around until he found what he considered an ideal spot for an attack, in a popular part of National Harbor.”
“With the crowds still too thin, however, the defendant needed a place to hide until the time was right, so he broke into a boat and hid there overnight,” they continued. “By the following morning, Thursday, March 28, 2019, police officers had discovered the location of the stolen U-Haul and were awaiting the return of whoever had stolen it. When the defendant leapt over the security fence from the boat dock, observant police officers arrested him.”
A preliminary hearing on the prosecution’s detention motion is scheduled for later this week. He is currently only facing the charge of transporting a stolen vehicle across state lines, which carries up to 10 years in prison. It is still unclear whether the prosecution will pursue other charges.