WASHINGTON — The Chesterfield man accused of deliberately crashing into barriers outside the White House made an appearance in federal court Wednesday.
Sai Kandula was in federal court, dressed in an orange jumpsuit. He’ll be held in federal jail until a hearing next week. Prosecutors said he was in the United States legally on a green card. They haven’t revealed anything about his motive and didn't answer reporter questions after the hearing.
A judge ordered Kandula to remain in custody, calling him a flight risk and pointing to previous alleged threats of violence.
Kandula faces one federal charge for damaging property. He was initially 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.
Cameras weren't allowed in the courtroom on Wednesday, where Kandula answered questions from the judge and his attorneys. He requested a new pair of glasses, saying his were taken by the secret service while he was being apprehended.
5 On Your Side spoke with his former classmate at Marquette High School.
“It was very shocking," Errion Barfield said of the news. "I was confused. I was like, Really? ... It's crazy."
Both Barfield and Kandula graduated last year. They ran track together. And they took a class together about starting a business.
“The only time he really talked was when we had presentations and stuff. I remember his presentation. It was about being a computer engineer or a coding engineer or something along those lines, and he seemed very passionate," said Barfield.
“Did he ever say anything to you about going to the White House?” asked Vasan.
When asked if Kandula had ever mentioned anything to him about going to the White House, Barfield said, "No, never."
“I just would never expect him to have a Nazi flag on him. Oh, it's very unexpected. He never once said anything about that or anything about Hitler. You know, it was just very surprising," Barfield said.
Law enforcement officials said they found a Nazi flag inside the truck Kandula drove into White House barriers. They did not find weapons or explosives. No one was injured.
Court documents show he had planned the attack for six months, intending to ram a U-Haul into the barrier of the White House. He told law enforcement his goal was to “get to the White House, seize power, and be put in charge of the nation.”
Barfield remembers a very different classmate.
“Well, he was very nice, very kind. He was quiet. Didn't speak much. I know when he did speak, you know, he was soft-spoken," Barfield said.
The 5 On Your Side I-Team stopped by Kandula’s home for a second day to try and learn more about him. The blinds were drawn. No family would talk. But people down the street have said they remember the 19-year-old as someone who walked around the neighborhood every day with his head down and kept to himself.