A 28-year-old Maryland man has been charged with stealing a U-Haul van in a plot to drive it through a crowd of pedestrians at National Harbor in Maryland, near Washington, DC.
Prosecutors charged 28-year-old Rondell Henry last week with taking a stolen vehicle across state lines. They released new details about his alleged plans on Monday in a court filing, arguing that he should not be granted bail.
"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 said. "He must be detained pending trial."
According to authorities, Henry walked out of his computer engineering job on March 26. Family members were concerned about his physical and emotional well-being, and Montgomery County police issued a missing person press release.
But according to federal prosecutors, Henry was in that moment inspired to follow the paths of terrorists and extremists, whom he had followed via online videos for two years. Henry later told authorities that he felt "hatred" for people who weren't Muslim and he wanted to create panic and chaos, “same as what happened in France,” a reference to the 2016 terrorist attack in Nice, the court filing said.
Henry first drove around the Washington, DC, metro area, seeking a larger vehicle for his attack, prosecutors said. He stole a U-Haul van in Virginia, then continued to drive, seeking a target that would get media attention, the court filing said.
Around 5 a.m. on March 27, he arrived at Dulles International Airport. But at that hour, there weren't crowds, prosecutors said, so he left the van and attempted to get through security inside the terminal.
"After more than two hours of failing to breach Dulles’s security perimeter, the defendant returned to the U-Haul and his original plan of driving through a crowd," prosecutors said.
He then drove to the National Harbor in Maryland, where he parked the van and planned how he would conduct an attack, the filing said.
“I was just going to keep driving and driving and driving. I wasn’t going to stop,” he allegedly told investigators.
Henry left the van to wait for the right time to attack, prosecutors said, and he broke into a boat to hide overnight.
By the next morning, local police had recognized the van as stolen and were waiting when Henry returned to it. He was arrested, and he's been in custody since.
A hearing is set for Tuesday to determine if Henry should be eligible to be released on bond while he awaits trial. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison.