By Agence France-Presse
A man who US police say planned to mow down pedestrians with a truck in an Islamic State-inspired “terrorist attack” was ordered held without bail Tuesday, one day after authorities announced his arrest.
A federal judge in Greenbelt, Maryland near Washington accepted prosecutors’ recommendations that Rondell Henry be detained based on evidence found on his cell phone and a history of unspecified substance abuse.
“The defendant was planning a terrorist attack,” prosecutors said in a court filing.
“The defendant has made incriminating statements which are corroborated by independent evidence including video surveillance and items found in his cell phone,” they said.
A computer engineer who reportedly immigrated to the US from Trinidad and Tobago, Henry, 28, was arrested on March 28 at the National Harbor casino complex south of Washington for stealing a U-Haul van.
In subsequent interviews, court documents alleged, he revealed plans “to conduct a vehicular attack similar to the 2016 truck attack in Nice, France,” which left 86 dead and for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility, the Justice Department alleged.
According to a court affidavit, he told investigators he wanted to create “panic and chaos,” the “same as what happened in France.”
He told investigators he had “hatred” for non-Muslims and wanted to emulate videos he watched of Islamist attacks abroad.
The affidavit says that he stole the van on March 26 and over the next day drove it to several places in the Washington area, including Dulles International Airport, allegedly searching for a target for his attack.
At the time his family in Germantown, Maryland, north of the US capital, had reported him missing and expressed concern for his “physical and emotional welfare.”
Eventually he drove to National Harbor, a riverside casino and convention center, but allegedly found crowds too thin at the time.
After breaking into a boat and sleeping there overnight he was arrested the next morning while returning to the stolen van.
Court statements suggested that police only suspected Henry of planning the attack after they arrested and interrogated him.
“I was just going to keep driving and driving and driving. I wasn’t going to stop,” he allegedly told investigators.
The Justice Department has only charged him with interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, which carries up to 10 years in prison.
He was not charged with any terror-linked offense or support of a terror group, charges normally set for people accused of allying with Islamic State.