Germantown Man Held in Connection to ISIS Inspired Terrorist Plot to Run Down Pedestrians
Last week, Germantown Pulse, published a story about a Germantown man who had been reported missing from his place of employment and later updated the story to report that he had been located.
Yesterday, it was disclosed that the missing man, 28-year-old Rondell Henry, of Honey Crisp Lane in Germantown, had been plotting to conduct, what federal prosecutors, are calling an ISIS-inspired terrorist attack in Prince Georges County during the time he was missing.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland has charged Rondell Henry with interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle. Yesterday, the government filed a motion arguing for Henry to be detained pending trial as a flight risk and a danger to the community. Specifically, 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.
According to the criminal complaint and other court documents, on March 26, 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 driver, who had rented the U-Haul vehicle had noticed a man driving a blue BMW following 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 Wednesday, March 27, Montgomery County Police put out a Missing Persons press release reading that 5th District investigative officers were asking the public’s assistance in locating Henry, who was last seen by co-workers at approximately noon on Tuesday, March 26 when he left his place of employment in Germantown.
Also on March 27, 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.
According to the detention memo submitted by federal prosecutors, for two years, Henry has harbored “hatred” for those who do not practice the Muslim faith. 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.
A similar attack took place in New York City on October 31, 2017, when an Islamist terrorist drove a rented pickup truck into cyclists and runners for about one of the Hudson River Park's bike path alongside West Street from Houston Street south to Chambers Street in Lower Manhattan. The attack killed eight people and injured eleven others. The Federal Bureau of Investigation charged 29-year-old Sayfullo Habibullaevich Saipov, with the destruction of a motor vehicle and providing material support for a terrorist organization. Saipov is scheduled for trial in October 2019.
After stealing the van, prosecutors say Henry drove around, arriving at Dulles International Airport in Virginia at approximately 5:00 am on Wednesday, March 27. 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.
According to court documents, prosecutors located Henry’s phone, which he discarded on a highway in an apparent attempt to conceal evidence. Federal authorities found images of the ISIS flag, armed ISIS fighters and the man who carried out the massacre in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., three years ago.
According to the motion for detention, Henry then drove the U-Haul from Virginia to the National Harbor in Maryland, arriving around 10:00 am on Wednesday, March 27. The motion for detention alleges that Henry parked the U-Haul and walked around a popular part of National Harbor. Prosecutors say that because it was a Wednesday morning and few tourists were in National Harbor, Henry opted to wait until the area was more crowded.
“But so early in the morning on a weekday,” prosecutors wrote, “the defendant did not find the sizable crowd upon which he desired to inflict his radical conduct.” According to the motion for detention, Henry broke into a boat at the marina and spent the night in the boat.
By the following morning, Thursday, March 28, police had discovered the location of the stolen U-Haul, and alert Prince George County Police officers noticed Henry as he leaped over a security fence from the boat dock, and he was placed under arrest. At about 1:30 pm on March 28, Montgomery County Police reported that Henry had been located “safe and unharmed.”
According to Rick Goodale, a spokesman for Montgomery County Police Department, Montgomery County was unaware of Henry’s movements and alleged plot to commit a terror attack at the time of the original missing persons press release, and when they update was provided. It was not until the FBI asked to use the photo of Rondell Henry that Montgomery County became aware of the additional charges and detention memo.
A detention hearing is scheduled for today, April 9, at 12:45 pm in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. DiGirolamo. If convicted, Henry faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle. It is not clear if prosecutors intend to file additional charges accusing him of planning an attack. The stolen vehicle charge is likely a placeholder, with prosecutors expected to present evidence before a grand jury and secure an indictment that could have new charges involving the terror plot.
Photos courtesy MCPD and the Motion for Detention Pending Trial.