WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan24) – On Monday, federal authorities in the state of Maryland announced the arrest of a 28-year old man who planned to ram a stolen van into a crowd of people in Washington DC in a plot inspired by Islamic State videos.
Rondell Henry, a computer expert who lived and worked in the relatively affluent suburb of Germantown, was first detained on March 28.
UPDATE — We’re at the Maryland home of Rondell Henry— Mike Valerio (@MikevWUSA) April 8, 2019
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• ATF says there is NO arsenal that Henry amassed as part of this alleged plot#breaking @WUSA9 @stevenportnoy pic.twitter.com/lESEtIUWC1
Two days before, as Henry told police, he had left work at mid-day, bent on a personal mission. He had developed a “hatred” for “disbelievers” that came from “watching videos of foreign terrorists beheading civilians and fighting overseas,” court documents explained.
Henry considered such actions “brave,” and “wanted to emulate them.” A video of the June 12, 2016, shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida, in which 49 people were killed, was found on his phone, while he specifically cited the truck ramming a month later in France that killed 86 people on Bastille Day as a model for his own aspirations.
But Henry’s own efforts turned out to resemble more a skit from the Keystone Cops, bumbling police of slapstick comedy fame from a century ago. Judging his own car too small to inflict fatalities on the scale to which he aspired, Henry stole a rented U-Haul van on the afternoon of March 26.
The van’s driver had noticed Henry following him, and when he parked his own vehicle, saw Henry park not far from him. When he returned to where his van should have been, he called the police to report the missing vehicle, pointing out Henry’s car.
Using motor vehicle records, the police traced Henry’s parked car to its owner. They had his name already two days before they arrested him.
This was the first of several of Henry’s actions outlined in court documents that prompted Paul Davis, a former Pentagon analyst and now a Senior Fellow at Soran University, to describe him as an “idiot.”
“Why didn’t he just rent the van himself? Why steal it?” Davis asked, noting that it was the theft that led to his arrest.
Once he had possession of the stolen van, Henry drove around the Washington area, looking for a high-profile place to carry out his attack. At 5:00 AM, he ended up at Dulles International Airport, outside Washington, in Virginia. But there were no large groups of people—which, of course, should have been little surprise given the early hour.
Henry spent two fruitless hours at the airport on the morning of March 27 looking for a target, before giving up and driving off.
It seems Henry did not sleep that night. He ended up at National Harbor, a convention and tourism center, along the Potomac River, in Maryland, at 10:00 AM. Still, he “did not find the sizable crowd upon which he desired to inflict his radical conduct,” prosecutors stated.
So at some point, Henry broke into a boat, where he hid overnight. When he woke in the morning, he jumped a fence to get to the van. Police, who had discovered the stolen vehicle, were waiting, and they arrested him.
One can only imagine the astonishment of the police, as Henry—voluntarily—related his story. Police then arranged a psychiatric evaluation for him, before turning him over to the FBI.
So, far, Henry has only been charged with transporting a stolen vehicle across state lines, but more serious charges are expected when he appears in a federal court later on Tuesday.
Davis explained to Kurdistan 24 why he repeatedly called Henry an “idiot.” As Davis said, “We shouldn’t use language to describe these people that could in any way make them appear as heroes to anyone. ‘Idiot’ serves the purpose, I think, particularly, when you see all the dumb things that he did.”
Henry’s planned assault came just a few weeks after a March 15 attack by a white supremacist on two mosques in New Zealand, in which 50 people were killed. Davis noted that Henry could have made himself appear more important by portraying his plan as revenge for the New Zealand murders, but he seemed to have lacked the wit for even that.
Editing by Nadia Riva