May 22 (Reuters) – The U.S. Secret Service said on Monday night it had detained the driver of a rental box truck that crashed into security barriers near the White House, possibly intentionally, but there were no injuries or immediate danger.
Investigators found a Nazi swastika flag that apparently came from inside the truck, which crashed into barriers in Lafayette Square adjacent to the White House grounds, Reuters reports.
A Reuters photographer said authorities recovered a flag and plastic evidence bags that had been left on the sidewalk following the crash and placed them in the back of the U-Haul.
“A preliminary investigation indicates that the driver may have intentionally struck the security barriers in Lafayette Square,” Secret Service communications chief Anthony Guglielmi said on Twitter.
He added that the U.S. Park Police will file charges with Secret Service investigative support.
WUSA television showed video of a box-type, U-haul truck stopped with a row of steel bollards before uniformed law enforcement officers and a dog approached the vehicle. A remote-controlled robot opened the back door of the truck, revealing a dolly but no other apparent cargo.
Chris Zaboji, a witness to the crash, posted a brief video on social media showing the truck driving into the barriers. This video has been verified by Reuters. After crashing once, the driver hit the barriers a second time, he said.
Airline pilot Jaboji, 25, who lives in Washington, was walking home from jogging on the National Mall when he heard a loud crash.
“I turned around and saw the U-Haul van hit the barrier. I backed up behind a guy in a golf cart and took a video on my phone. After I saw it hit again, I didn’t want to be anywhere. Walked up to the truck and left,” Zaboji said.
An earlier tweet by the Secret Service’s Guglielmi said no one from the White House or the Secret Service was injured.
President Joe Biden’s exact location at the time was unclear. He met with Speaker of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy at the White House on Monday evening.
The nearby Hay Adams Hotel was evacuated at the request of the Secret Service, the Washington Post reported, citing a hotel official, while some roads and pedestrian walkways around the park were closed, the Secret Service said.
A spokesman for the Washington Fire Department said at 9:40 p.m. (0140 GMT) that a suspicious package was being investigated.
A large law enforcement and public safety response soon ensued, before investigators determined the contents of the mostly empty truck were harmless.
Report by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Kostas Pitas
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