Rondell Henry, a 28-year-old man from Germantown, Maryland is accused of plotting to use a stolen U-Haul van in a terrorist attack against pedestrians along the Potomac River after allegedly being inspired by ISIS.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland charged Rondell Henry with interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle. The government is also asking that Henry be detained pending trial “as a flight risk and a danger to the community.”
The government accuses Henry of wanting to replicate the Nice, France terrorist attack in which a man drove a truck into pedestrians in 2016, killing 86 people. However, according to authorities, Henry didn’t find enough pedestrians clustered at Dulles airport and the National Harbor, so he waited to act and was then apprehended before he could carry an attack out. “He even calculated how he may have to come off the road and onto the sidewalk in order to hit people,” says the government motion.
The government’s detention motion starts with an alleged quote from Henry: “I was just going to keep driving and driving and driving. I wasn’t going to stop.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Government Argues That Rondell Henry Was ‘Inspired by the ISIS Terrorist Organization’
The government has filed a motion seeking Henry’s detention. “The government’s detention memo alleges that Henry, who claimed to be inspired by the ISIS terrorist organization, stole a U-Haul van with the intention of using it as a weapon against pedestrians on sidewalks within the National Harbor complex along the Potomac River in Maryland,” a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice reads.
A detention hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, April 9, 2019, at 12:45 p.m. in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. DiGirolamo, the release states.
U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur stated, according to the release: “We continue to gather evidence, as well as review evidence already obtained as part of this ongoing investigation.”
In the detention motion, the government alleged: “What matters for purposes of the upcoming detention hearing is the reason why the defendant stole the vehicle: to use it to commit mass murder, in the pattern established by ISIS.”
Montgomery County police had first told the public that Henry was a missing person. They wrote on Facebook on March 27, 2019:
“Detectives from the Montgomery County Department of Police – 5th District Investigative Section are asking for the public’s assistance in locating a missing Germantown man. Rondell Henry, age 28, from Honey Crisp Lane, was last seen by co-workers at approximately noon yesterday (Tuesday, March 26) when he left his place of employment in Germantown. Family has been unable to contact him since that time.”
He was described at that time as “approximately 6-foot-tall and weighs 140 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes.” Police later indicated that Henry had been found.
2. Henry Is a Computer Engineer
The government alleges in its motion that Rondell Henry “was a computer engineer by trade, and knew nothing of explosives or firearms. But he knew how to drive, and he also knew of the terrorist truck attack in Nice, France.” He and his ex-wife were divorced in January, according to court records.
On Tuesday, March 26, 2019, the defendant “walked off his job in Germantown, Maryland, in the middle of the day, determined to walk down the extremist path,” alleges the government.
“Recognizing that his older four-door sedan would not cause the catastrophic damage that he desired, the defendant drove around the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area looking for a larger vehicle to steal.”
Alleges the motion, “He wanted to create ‘panic and chaos,’ the ‘same as what happened in France.’ He had no escape plan, intending to die while killing others for his cause.”
3. The Alleged Plot Was Foiled After a Stolen U-Haul Was Recovered, Authorities Say
According to the criminal complaint and other court documents, on March 26, 2019, the Alexandria Police Department “was contacted concerning a leased U-Haul vehicle that had been stolen from a parking garage at a mall in Alexandria, Virginia,” the press release says.
“The driver, who had rented the U-Haul vehicle had noticed a man driving a blue BMW follow the U-Haul off Interstate 395 and onto mall property, then follow the U-Haul into the parking garage and park a few spaces away. When police responded to the garage, they found the BMW near where the U-Haul had been stolen. A check of the BMW’s registration records revealed that the BMW was registered to Rondell Henry.”
On March 27, 2019, the release says, the stolen U-Haul “was located at the National Harbor in Maryland. Law enforcement reviewed video surveillance of the area that showed Henry parking and subsequently exiting the stolen U-Haul. Henry was arrested the following day.”
4. Authorities Say Henry Harbors ‘Hatred’ for People Who Aren’t Muslims
According to the detention memo filed by the government, for two years, Henry has harbored “hatred” for those “who do not practice the Muslim faith,” says the release.
“Allegedly inspired by videos he watched of foreign terrorists, Henry decided to conduct a vehicular attack, similar to the 2016 truck attack in Nice, France, for which ISIS claimed responsibility,” the release states.
“After stealing the van, Henry drove around, arriving at Dulles International Airport in Virginia at approximately 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 27, 2019. The government’s motion for detention alleges that Henry exited his U-Haul and entered the terminal, trying to find a way through security, allegedly to harm ‘disbelievers’ in a way designed for maximum publicity. After more than two hours of failing to breach Dulles’s security perimeter, Henry allegedly returned to the U-Haul.”
5. Henry Is Accused of Hiding Overnight in a Boat Called ‘GoVanish’
According to the motion for detention, Henry “then drove the U-Haul from Virginia to the National Harbor in Maryland, arriving around 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 27,” says the release.
The motion for detention alleges that Henry “parked the U-Haul and walked around a popular part of National Harbor….Henry finally broke into a boat to hide overnight.” The boat is named “GoVanish” – and is “ironically owned by a retired Prince George’s County Police officer,” wrote journalist Kevin Lewis, of ABC 7, on Twitter.
By the following morning, Thursday, March 28, police officers “had discovered the location of the stolen U-Haul. When Henry leapt over the security fence from the boat dock, observant Prince George’s County Police officers arrested him.”
He faces a sentence of 10 years in prison regarding the stolen vehicle.