Indian national pleads guilty to ramming barriers outside the White House

The White House in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Twenty-year-old Indian national, Sai Varshith Kandula, from St. Louis, Missouri, who deliberately drove a U-Haul truck into the barriers protecting the White House on May 22, 2023, has pleaded guilty to “willful injury or depredation of property of the United States” on May 13, 2024, in Washington DC.

According to the US Attorney’s Office, District of Columbia, on May 13th, Kandula, a lawful permanent resident of the US, who was born in Chandanagar, India, is scheduled to be sentenced by US District Court Judge Dabney L. Friedrich on August 23, 2024.

Court documents reveal that Kandula boarded a commercial airline departing from St. Louis and landed at Dulles International Airport around 5:20 pm on May 22, 2023. Subsequently, he rented a truck at 6:30 pm, made stops for food and fuel, and proceeded to drive to Washington DC. At around 9:35 pm, he rammed into the barriers safeguarding the White House and President’s Park at the intersection of H Street, NW and 16th Street, NW.

Kandula veered onto to the sidewalk causing pedestrians to flee. Upon hitting the barriers, the truck reversed and abruptly “lurched forward” again hitting the metal barriers once more. This second collision rendered the truck inoperable eventually causing smoke to emanate from the engine and resulted in fluid leaks. Without exiting, Kandula then made his way to the back of the truck and took out a red-and-white flag with a Nazi Swastika, from his backpack and waved it. He was subsequently arrested by US Park Police and the US Secret Service officers and taken into custody.

“According to the plea agreement, at the time Kandula crashed the truck into the White House perimeter, he was attempting to gain access to the White House to seize political power. Kandula’s intent was to replace the democratically elected government with a dictatorship fueled by ideology of Nazi Germany and for himself to be put in charge of the United States,” noted the statement from US Attorney’s office. “Kandula admitted to investigators that he would have arranged for the killing of the U.S. President and others if necessary to achieve his objective. His actions were calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion.”

The statement elaborated that for weeks, Kandula meticulously planned the attack. He attempted to “gain access to vehicles or armed security guards” before ultimately renting a truck and crashing it onto the White House grounds.

“For example, on April 22, 2023, Kandula requested 25 armed guards and an armored convoy from a security company located in Virginia. On May 4, 2023, Kandula attempted to contact several other companies in an attempt to rent a large commercial tractor-trailer truck, a dump truck, or another large truck,” it said adding Kandula couldn’t manage to arrange for guards or the vehicles.

According to the statement, Kandula had tried to secure assistance from these guards, and use vehicles to execute his plan against the Government of the United States.

The statement added that Kandula’s behavior resulted in $4,322 worth of damage to the National Park Service and over $50,000 in damage to U-Haul International. These costs covered repairs to the metal bollard barriers as well as expenses for oil and chemical cleanup, spill containment, and fluid disposal from the damaged U-Haul. Additionally, it also accounted for the value of the U-Haul truck that was destroyed in the incident.

The Washington Post, citing a detention memo filed by federal prosecutors noted, Kandula reportedly said he wanted to “get to the White House, seize power, and be put in charge of the nation.” According to CBS News, per the statement of facts, when agents questioned Kandula about his plans to seize power, he reportedly said “I would kill the President if that’s what I have to do and would hurt anyone that would stand in my way.”

At the plea hearing on May 13th, Kandula’s attorney Scott Rosenblum said he has been suffering from mental health issues and “diagnosed with schizophrenia” by specialists.

The investigation of this case involved multiple agencies including the US Secret Service, the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, the US Park Police, and the MPD. Special Assistant US Attorney Alex Schneider handled the prosecution.



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