The parents of the British teen killed in a car crash with a US diplomat's wife met President Donald Trump in the White House on Tuesday. The couple expected to push the president to waive diplomatic immunity for the American woman, so they can seek justice for their son.
What they didn’t expect was for the president, a former reality TV star, to arrange a surprise meeting with the woman who is suspected in the crash. According to a family spokesperson, cameras were standing by ready to capture the encounter.
"I think the family feel a little bit ambushed to say the least," the spokesperson, Radd Seiger, told the BBC.
The victim of the crash, Harry Dunn, was 19 when he was killed in the August accident. He had been riding his motorcycle on the correct side of the road when the 42-year-old diplomat's wife drove out of the RAF Croughton US Air Force base onto the wrong side of the road and hit the teen head-on, Sky News reported.
The suspect was not identified by authorities but has been widely named as Anne Sacoolas by British media and politicians since.
Sacoolas claimed diplomatic immunity and fled the UK earlier this October, despite initially telling police she would cooperate with the investigation, police said.
Many are now calling for Sacoolas to return to the UK so the investigation can continue. In an interview with BBC, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he "hope[s] that Anne Sacoolas will come back and will engage properly with the processes of law as they are carried out in this country."
Sacoolas has not yet spoken publicly about the incident and could not be immediately reached by BuzzFeed News.
Dunn's parents have been pleading for justice for their son, directly asking for Trump to send Sacoolas back to the UK.
“President Trump, please listen,” Charlotte Charles, Dunn's mother, said in an interview with Sky News. “We’re a family in ruin. We’re broken. We can’t grieve. Please, please, let her get back on a plane. Come back to the UK."
On Tuesday, the parents visited the White House to make that plea to Trump in person. They said they didn't know Sacoolas was in the next room, waiting for Trump to introduce them.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told BuzzFeed News the meeting between Trump and the Dunns was held "at the request of Prime Minister Boris Johnson."
"The President met with members of the Dunn family to personally offer his condolences for the loss of their son," Grisham said. "His intent was to do all he could to comfort the victims of a tragic accident."
But Grisham did not say who invited Sacoolas.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Charles said "the bombshell was dropped" by Trump that "Anne Sacoolas was in the building and was willing to meet with us."
The Dunn family said they refused the meeting, but said they "would still love to meet with her but it has to be on our terms and on UK soil."
On Wednesday, Trump confirmed to reporters that he'd arranged the meeting, saying he had "offered to bring the person in question in, and they weren't ready for it."
Trump added that accidents like the one that killed Harry Dunn are common for visiting Americans because "the roads are opposite."
"That happens in Europe, you go to Europe and the roads are opposite. It's very tough if you're from the United States," Trump said. "That happens to a lot of people, by the way."
Seiger told the BBC that the surprise meeting felt like "an ambush."
"I thought we were coming down to have a debate on the diplomatic immunity law, and it soon became clear to us that the real reason for inviting us down was to try and get Charlotte and Mrs. Sacoolas in a room together," he said. "And then I looked to my side and I saw at least three photographers ready to almost almost...do a press call."
Seiger did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
In a statement on the family's GoFundMe, Seiger said there were several photographers present for what was "obviously designed to be a press call."
National security adviser Robert O’Brien was also present, who Seiger said did not come across well during the meeting. BuzzFeed News has contacted O'Brien's office for comment.
"It struck us that this meeting was hastily arranged by nincompoops on the run and in particular Mr O’Brien who appeared to be extremely uptight and aggressive and did not come across at all well in this meeting which required careful handling and sensitivity," Seiger said.
Seiger wrote that Trump "hinted at the end of the meeting, having heard Charlotte’s appeal, that he may look at approaching the problem from a different angle."
"Notwithstanding the nature of the meeting yesterday, the family would welcome any such further intervention so that this nightmare scenario can be brought to an end," he wrote. "They look forward forward to engaging with the President again as soon as possible."