A federal judge ordered a Maryland man detained on Tuesday following an accusation by the government that he was inspired by ISIS and stole a van with the intention of running over innocent people.
US Magistrate Judge Thomas DiGirolamo accepted the government’s argument at a detention hearing in Maryland, ordering Rondell Henry detained as he awaits trial and the government’s investigation is ongoing.
At the hearing on Tuesday, Assistant US Attorney Thomas Windom said Henry was by his own admission inspired by ISIS and that, if released, he would be a danger to the community.
The judge accepted Windom’s argument and rejected an offer by a public defender on Henry’s behalf to keep him on house arrest in the custody of his family and 24 hour monitoring.
The Justice Department announced the allegation against Henry on Monday and said he had been arrested in connection with the vehicle theft last month.
Speaking to reporters Monday evening, Prince George’s County Chief of Police Hank Stawinski of Maryland said he had not been able to inform the county “immediately” about the event, but stressed his belief that the area was safe.
On Tuesday, Windom said Henry had spent time “watching videos posted by the Islamic State” and was in agreement with the infamous militant group’s calls for violence against civilians.
“He considered it brave to murder innocent civilians,” Windom said.
Windom said that last month, Henry “literally walked out the door” of his job, in the middle of his shift and looked for a vehicle to run people down with. He followed someone in a U-Haul and stole the vehicle, Windom said, and drove out to Dulles International Airport early in the morning and “essentially cased the airport” before leaving and heading to National Harbor in Maryland, where he walked around looking for a place to attack with the U-Haul. He was apprehended by law enforcement the next morning, according to Windom.
Windom said there was corroborating video surveillance at Dulles and National Harbor, evidence of interest in ISIS from Henry’s phone and Henry’s own statements backing the government’s arguments.
Henry has been charged with transportation of a stolen vehicle, although Windom said the investigation was ongoing, including as it related to terrorism.
Michael CitaraManis, an attorney for Henry, noted he had only been charged with the stolen vehicle and accused the government of trying to “control the narrative” as he counseled the court to be cautious – and even suspicious – of the government’s claims.
He noted, as did the judge, that Henry had no criminal history and was a naturalized citizen after coming to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago some 11 years ago. He also said it appeared Henry’s “rights have been violated” and noted confusion by Henry’s family after his arrest, saying they even reported him as a missing person. A local report on Patch.com from last month showed he had been thought to be missing after leaving work and the unfolding events alleged by the government.
Jennifer Moore, acting special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore field office, told reporters after the hearing that what had begun on some law enforcement levels as a missing person’s case had quickly turned into something else. She stressed the FBI’s regular call for people to report suspicious behavior: “If you see something, please say something.”