The U.S. Secret Service said it had detained the driver of a rented box truck that crashed into security barriers near the White House on Monday night, perhaps intentionally, but that there were no injuries or ongoing danger.
A witness said investigators found a Nazi swastika flag that apparently came from inside the truck, which crashed into barriers at Lafayette Square, adjacent to the White House grounds.
Officers retrieved the Nazi flag and plastic evidence bags that had been laid out on the sidewalk following the crash and placed them in the back of the U-Haul, a photographer 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.
U.S. Park Police would file charges with investigative support from the Secret Service, he added.
WUSA television showed the video of a box-type, U-Haul truck stopped alongside a row of steel bollards, with uniformed law-enforcement officers and a dog approaching the vehicle. A remote-controlled robot pried open the truck's rear door, revealing a dolly but no other obvious cargo.
Chris Zaboji, a witness to the crash, posted a brief video on social media showing the truck driving into the barricades. After crashing once, the driver hit the barriers a second time, he said.
Zaboji, 25, an airline pilot who lives in Washington, said he had just finished jogging on the National Mall and was walking home when he heard a loud crash.
"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," Zaboji said.
A previous tweet from the Secret Service's Guglielmi said nobody from the White House or Secret Service was injured.
The exact location of President Joe Biden at the time was unclear. He met with Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy at the White House earlier on Monday evening.
The nearby Hay Adams hotel was evacuated at the request of the Secret Service, the Washington Post reported, citing a hotel official, while the Secret Service said some roads and pedestrian walkways around the park were closed.
A spokesperson for the Washington Fire Department said a call came in at 9:40 p.m. (0140 GMT) for what was described as a suspicious package investigation.
In recent years, security measures and barriers near the White House have been strengthened following several incidents in which individuals managed to penetrate the premises.
The New York Times reported that the Secret Service upgraded the fences surrounding the presidential residence last year, doubling their height to about four meters. Last month, a toddler managed to breach the fence through a gap between its metal columns.
The heightened security measures also come in response to deadly incidents that occurred in the vicinity of the White House in the past two years, on Capitol Hill.
In 2021, a few months after the Capitol riots, a driver ran over two police officers on-site, killing one of them. He then attacked the officers with a knife and was shot dead.
In August of last year, another incident occurred when a car crashed into a barrier near the Capitol. The driver exited the vehicle, which caught fire, fired several shots into the air, and then took his own life when the officers approached him.