A federal magistrate judge on 9 April ordered Maryland resident Rondell Henry, 28, to remain in jail, pending trial, regarding what the government calls a plot to commit a terror attack inspired by the Islamic State (ISIS).
Federal prosecutors say Rondell spent two years studying ISIS fighters and decided he wanted to join their ranks. Rondell started spending more time with his family, thinking he would never see them again, prosecutors said. He told his landlord in March that he was breaking his lease. Two days later, he walked off his job in the middle of a shift, the Washington Post reported.
But federal authorities say they uncovered Rondell's plot before he could act. According to law enforcement officials in Maryland, this uncovering started out as an investigation into a missing person (Henry) and a stolen U-Haul van. Investigators then uncovered a plot for a terrorist attack that would target families and civilians at a major international airport and at National Harbor, a waterfront entertainment development just outside of Washington, D.C.
Prosecutors say Henry's motivation was to kill as many disbelievers as possible, the Post reports.
Henry appeared in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland, one day after the government publicly accused him of plotting to commit mass murder by mowing down crowds with a stolen van. Federal authorities charged him with taking a stolen car across state lines, but he is not charged with a terror-related count. No additional charges were entered Tuesday.
Prosecutors argue that Henry sized up Dulles International Airport to see if it had a large enough crowd for his intended attack. Finding too few people there, they contend, Henry drove to National Harbor with the same intent.
An assistant federal public defender representing Henry in the federal case argued that Henry has no prior criminal record and urged the judge to view the government's assertions with suspicion, the Post reports.
ISIS inspired plots and attacks are not new in the Unites States. In late 2017, Sayfullo Saipov, was accused of killing eight people in New York by mowing down pedestrians and cyclists on a Manhattan bike path. Officials said Saipov plotted for weeks and then carried out the attack in the name of the ISIS.