A driver has been arrested on charges of threatening to kill or harm the president, vice president or family member after he allegedly ploughed a U-haul truck into security barriers near the White House while carrying a Nazi flag.
The crash unfolded at around 9.40pm on Monday night when the vehicle crashed into the barriers outside Lafayette Park, about a block away from the White House, police said.
The driver – identified as Sai Varshith Kandula, 19, of Chesterfield, Missouri – was detained on the scene and there were no injuries and no ongoing danger to the public.
Images and videos showed police recovering a Nazi flag from the scene in the aftermath of the crash.
Officers retrieved the red flag with a large swastika and other plastic evidence bags that had been laid out on the sidewalk after the crash and placed them back in the rear of the rented box truck, a Reuters photographer said.
On Tuesday morning, US Park Police spokesman Thomas Twiname said that Mr Kandula was arrested and charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, threatening to kill, kidnap or inflict harm on a president, vice president, or family member, destruction of federal property, and trespassing.
A video posted by a witness to the crash, Chris Zaboji, showed the truck driving into the barricades and, after crashing once, driving into them a second time.
The 25-year-old Zaboji, an airline pilot living in Washington, said he was walking home after jogging on the national mall when he heard a loud crash. The initial ramming made him take out his phone and start recording.
"I looked back and saw that the U-Haul van had rammed into the barricade. I backed away behind a guy on a golf cart and took the video on my phone. After I saw it rammed again I didn’t want to be anywhere near the truck and left," he said.
“Preliminary investigation reveals the driver may have intentionally struck the security barriers at Lafayette Square,” Anthony Guglielmi, chief of communications for the Secret Service, said on Twitter.
Officials at the White House did not specify the exact location of president Joe Biden at the time. Just hours earlier on Monday evening, Mr Biden held a meeting with the speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, at the White House.
The Washington DC fire department was informed of the incident at around 9.40pm (2.40am BST) and alerted of a “suspicious package investigation”, its spokesperson said.
Firefighters rushed to the spot alongside a major law enforcement and public safety response, before investigators determined the contents of the mostly empty truck were harmless.
The Secret Service also evacuated the nearby Hay Adams hotel by request, reported the Washington Post, citing a hotel official.
Some roads and pedestrian walkways around the park were closed, the Secret Service said.