A 28-year-old Maryland man was indicted Wednesday on a federal terrorism charge for planning a truck terror attack to kill pedestrians at a popular waterfront district near Washington, D.C.
A federal grand jury charged Rondell Henry of Germantown, Md., with attempting to provide material support to ISIS, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.
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Henry planned to drive a truck into a large group of pedestrians at National Harbor, a waterfront district in Maryland with restaurants and stores. He was inspired by the 2016 Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, France. That terror attack killed 86 and injured hundreds.
Court documents state that Henry wanted to create "panic and chaos," and he indicated he wanted to do the "same as what happened in France." He was also intent on finding a sizable crowd to attack.
On March 26, Henry walked off his job in Maryland and searched for a large truck to steal. He stole a U-Haul in Virginia "to use it to commit mass murder, in the pattern established by ISIS," according to court documents.
"The defendant, allegedly inspired by ISIS and its violent ideology, stole a vehicle as part of his plan to kill and injure innocent pedestrians," said John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for national security.
Henry drove around to assess targets to attack that would draw substantial media attention. He also discarded his cell phone on an interstate highway.
Henry first went to Dulles International Airport but he did not find a large crowd of pedestrians unloading in the early morning. He tried to breach security and was unsuccessful.
Henry then drove to National Harbor but he "did not find the sizable crowd upon which he desired to inflict his radical conduct," according to court documents. Henry decided to wait until the next day to attack. He broke into a boat and hid there overnight.
Police found the stolen U-Haul and waited to see if the person who stole it returned. Henry was arrested when he leaped over a security fence from the boat dock.
"I was just going to keep driving and driving and driving. I wasn’t going to stop," Henry allegedly told law enforcement after his arrest.
Video surveillance showed Henry parking and exiting the stolen U-Haul. His phone was also recovered and on it were images of ISIS fighters wielding guns, the ISIS flag, and the Pulse Nightclub shooter in Florida.
For several years Henry became inspired by ISIS and told law enforcement he harbored "hatred" for "disbelievers" who do not follow the Muslim faith. He also allegedly watched videos of foreign terrorists beheading civilians and thought their actions were brave.
"Law enforcement is working tirelessly to prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks, whether they come from within or outside the United States. We will continue to use every lawful tool at our disposal to find and prosecute those who want to do this country harm," said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. "This indictment is the next step in holding Rondell Henry accountable for his actions."
Henry faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the charge of attempting to provide material support to ISIS. He also faces 10 years for interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle.