U.S. Capitol Police early Monday arrested an Oceanside, Calif., man outside the Washington headquarters of the Democratic National Committee on suspicion of possession of prohibited weapons.
Around midnight, an officer on patrol noticed a black Dodge Dakota pickup truck with a swastika and other white supremacist symbols outside the DNC headquarters, according to Capitol Police. The truck had a picture of an American flag in place of a license plate.
Officers noticed a bayonet and machete, which are illegal in Washington, inside the truck and arrested the driver, Donald Craighead, 44, of Oceanside.
According to Capitol Police, Craighead said he was “on patrol” and began talking about “white supremacist ideology and other rhetoric pertaining to white supremacy.”
Photos released by Capitol Police show Craighead’s vehicle had a pentagram on the steering wheel and the word “confederate” scrawled on the dashboard. The truck also contained animal bones and had antlers attached to the front.
Criminal records show Craighead has been charged with multiple misdemeanors in California and was convicted of passing bad checks, forgery, theft and drug possession in Montana in the 1990s and early 2000s.
California correctional officials said Craighead first came to their attention in November 2005 when his parole was transferred from Montana. It lasted until the next year.
He was convicted in November 2016 of two counts of evading or attempting to evade a peace officer while driving recklessly in San Diego County. The next month he began a two-year sentence for those crimes. With credits and time served pre-sentencing, he was released in July 2017.
His father, Donald W. Craighead, 65, of Granite Bay, Calif., told the Los Angeles Times that his son has battled mental illness and drug use since he was a teenager, leading to legal troubles in the past.
“This isn’t political. He isn’t even a Trump supporter,” he said. “There is nothing to all the symbols. He is not a violent person and his record shows that. He is a paranoid schizophrenic and that is the reason for all the weapons. They are there for him to protect himself.”
The father said his son was previously in San Diego but took a bus across the country and had been living in Virginia. He said police in Virginia previously detained his son in connection with the truck.
The arrest comes less than a week before a planned rally at the Capitol that some officials fear will become violent. In August, a man claiming to have a bomb shut down Capitol Hill for several hours before surrendering to authorities.
The arrest also comes eight months after thousands of protesters clashed with police during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Law enforcement officials still have not identified who placed pipe bombs outside the Democratic and Republican national committees’ headquarters that day.
Capitol Police said in a statement “it is not clear if [Craighead] was planning to attend any upcoming demonstrations or if he has ties to any previous cases in the area.”
Separately, Capitol Police announced Monday that temporary fencing will be reinstalled around the Capitol before the Sept. 18 event, which organizers say is being held to show support for Jan. 6 rioters who are in jail awaiting trial.
The Capitol Police board has issued an emergency declaration to allow the department to deputize other law enforcement officers to act as special officers.
The department said in a statement that it was aware of “concerning online chatter about a demonstration planned for Sept. 18.”
“We are here to protect everyone’s 1st Amendment right to peacefully protest,” Chief Tom Manger said in a statement. “I urge anyone who is thinking about causing trouble to stay home. We will enforce the law and not tolerate violence.”
Congressional leaders were briefed by Manger on Monday morning about the preparations going into place. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) wouldn’t comment on specifics but said “they are well-prepared, thorough, professional, and I think they are better prepared than people were before Jan. 6.”
Wire reported from Washington and Winton from Los Angeles.