May 22 (Reuters) – The U.S. intelligence agency said it had detained the driver of a rented van that crashed into security barriers near the White House on Monday night, possibly on purpose, but that there were no injuries or ongoing danger .
A Reuters witness said investigators found a Nazi swastika flag apparently coming from inside the truck, which crashed into barriers at Lafayette Square, adjacent to the White House grounds.
Officers retrieved the flag and plastic evidence bags that had been laid out on the pavement after the crash and placed them in the back of the U-Haul, a Reuters photographer said.
“Preliminary investigation reveals that the driver may have intentionally hit the security barriers at Lafayette Square,” Anthony Guglielmi, director of communications for the Secret Service, said on Twitter.
US Park Police would file charges with investigative support from the Secret Service, he added.
WUSA television showed video of a box-type, U-Haul truck stopped next to a row of steel bollards, with uniformed law enforcement officers and a dog approaching the vehicle. A remote-controlled robot opened the back door of the truck, revealing a dolly but no other obvious cargo.
Chris Zaboji, a witness to the crash, posted a short video on social media showing the truck driving into the barricades. The video was confirmed by Reuters. After crashing once, the driver hit the barriers a second time, he said.
Zaboji, 25, an airline pilot who lives in Washington, said he had just finished jogging on the National Mall and was walking home when he heard a loud crash.
“I looked back and saw that the U-Haul van had driven into the barricade. I backed up behind a guy on a golf cart and took the video on my phone. After I saw it hit again, I didn’t want to be anywhere near the truck and left ,” Zaboji said.
An earlier tweet from the Secret Service’s Guglielmi said no one from the White House or Secret Service had been hurt.
The exact location of President Joe Biden at the time was unclear. He met with Speaker of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy at the White House earlier 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 the Secret Service said some roads and walkways around the park were closed.
A Washington Fire Department spokesman said a call came in at 10 p.m. 21:40 (0140 GMT) for what was described as a suspicious package investigation.
Soon there was an extensive law enforcement and public safety response before investigators determined that the contents of the mostly empty truck were harmless.
Reporting by Daniel Trotta; editing by Costas Pitas
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