Driver deliberately crashed car with gas container into NW D.C. building, Lanier says

Charles Dharapak/AP - Members of the FBI Terrorism Task Force and police are on the scene after a sports utility vehicle crashed into an office building in downtown Washington.

A car carrying at least one container of gasoline crashed into the lobby of a prominent Washington office building Friday evening as diners ate at a restaurant one floor above, authorities said.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said the crash was deliberate. Law enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that one or more containers of gasoline were in the vehicle and that gasoline had been poured on or in it.

(PHOTO COURTESY MAUREEN MATHIS) - Firefighters respond to the scene of a car that crashed into the lobby of a building at Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW Friday evening.

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The vehicle smashed through plate glass and into the lobby of the building on the southwest corner of Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW about 7:30 p.m.

With its similarities to car bombings, the crash provoked a vigorous response. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force was at the scene, but there was no indication late Friday of a terrorist link. The motive was unclear.

The driver was taken to a hospital for evaluation, D.C. police said. There was no report of any other injuries.

“I felt a crash,” said a woman who was in the bar area of Morton’s the Steakhouse. “I kind of heard it.” She said someone in their group asked facetiously: “Is the building collapsing? Should we try to get out?”

The woman, Maureen Mathis, a law student working in D.C. for the summer, said a red vehicle, apparently a Jeep, rested in the lobby. Mathis said the man who appeared to be the driver struggled with building security officers, then with police. Police said the car had been stolen.

The corner is busy and many people were nearby, Mathis said. She added that she saw what appeared to be a gasoline container being taken out of the vehicle.

The entrance to the Farragut North Metro station at that corner was closed after the incident while police investigated. “Everyone said it was a miracle that no one was hurt,” Mathis said.

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