The Washington Post

Police say man who crashed SUV into D.C. building also targeted State Department

Members of the FBI Terrorism Task Force and police are on the scene after a sports utility vehicle crashed into an office building at 1050 Connecticut Avenue NW in Washington, Friday, June 8, 2012. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

The man who police say doused the inside of a stolen Jeep with gasoline and rammed it into a downtown D.C. office building tried to drive it into the State Department building and the Institute of Peace earlier that day, a D.C. police officer testified Thursday.

Charles Ball, 32, of New Market in Frederick County sat in a prison jumpsuit and shackles as Officer Raphael Radon testified during a D.C. Superior Court hearing. Ball has been charged with arson and destruction of property.

Radon said Ball told officers that he was trying to get the FBI’s attention when he rammed the office building on the southwest corner of Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW around 7:30 p.m. on June 8. Nobody was injured.

Radon testified that before the incident, Ball had driven the vehicle to the State Department building at 2201 C St. NW and the Institute of Peace just blocks away but did not drive into them.

After Ball had been detained, Radon said, officers smelled gasoline and noticed a cigarette lighter on the front seat of the vehicle and an empty gas container nearby. Radon said the passenger’s seat was soaked with what smelled like gasoline.

Police said the vehicle was intentionally driven into the building and the driver and the interior of the car was doused in gasoline. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

Ball told police that “Frederick County police weren’t taking him seriously” and that his “children were in danger and he wanted to get the FBI’s attention.”

He also allegedly left a voice mail — which Radon said he had heard — on his girlfriend’s phone that said: “Everybody is going to pay. I mean in blood and all. No mercy.”

The officer testified that while he was interviewing Ball at the scene, the suspect reached inside his pocket, pulled out a lighter and tried to ignite it before he was restrained. “It took me about a second to realize he was trying to blow stuff up,” Radon said.

Ball’s attorney, James Whiteside of the District’s Public Defender Service, briefly discussed requesting a mental evaluation for his client with Assistant U.S. Attorney Ephraim Wernick, but neither side did so.

Whiteside argued that his client was not a danger and quoted D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, who had told reporters at the Connecticut Avenue scene that she did not believe the incident was a terrorist attack.

Magistrate Judge Frederick J. Sullivan said it was too early for anyone to make that statement and ordered Ball held in jail until his next hearing in August. “The whole scenario is bizarre, isn’t it?” he said as the hearing neared its end.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of slain federal intern Chandra Levy.

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