British teen 'tried to grab officer's gun to kill Trump'

Michael Sandford, 19, was overpowered and escorted out of the Las Vegas rally by police officers last Saturday.
Michael Sandford, 19, was overpowered and escorted out of the Las Vegas rally by police officers last Saturday.PHOTO: REUTERS TV

LOS ANGELES • A 19-year-old Briton has been charged with trying to grab a police officer's gun at a Donald Trump rally in Las Vegas in an apparent bid to kill the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Michael Sandford tried to disarm the officer at last Saturday's rally at the Mystere Theatre in the Treasure Island Casino before being overpowered, according to a complaint filed in federal court in Nevada.

He told a Secret Service agent after his arrest that he had driven from California to Las Vegas "to kill Trump", and had been to a shooting range a day earlier to learn to shoot as he had never fired a gun before.

"Sandford acknowledged that he would likely only be able to fire one to two rounds and stated he was convinced he would be killed by law enforcement during his attempt on Trump's life," the complaint said.

Sandford also told investigators that he had purchased tickets for a rally in Phoenix, where he "would try again to kill Trump" in the event that his plan in Las Vegas failed.

Video of his arrest shows a skinny man with short brown hair and a grey T-shirt being escorted quickly out of the rally by police officers with his hands behind his back.

The prosecutor's office said Sandford was ordered to be held without bond as he was considered dangerous and represented a flight risk.

Britain's Foreign Office is "providing assistance" in the case, a spokesman said.

The complaint said Sandford told investigators that he had been in the United States for about 18 months, and had lived in Hoboken, New Jersey, before travelling to California.

He said he had targeted officer Ameel Jacob's gun because it was in an unlocked position and would be the easiest way to get a weapon at the rally, where those attending had to go through metal detectors.

He struck up a conversation with the police officer, telling him he wanted an autograph from Mr Trump before lunging at his gun and grabbing it, prosecutors said.

He allegedly told the Secret Service that he had been plotting to kill Mr Trump for about a year and finally decided to act last Saturday, as "he finally felt confident to do it".

"Sandford further stated that, if he were on the street tomorrow, he would try this again," according to the court papers.

He is due to appear in court on July 5. He faces more than 10 years in prison and a US$250,000 (S$335,500) fine if found guilty of "violence on restricted grounds".

Mr Trump enjoys Secret Service protection but also has his own private security detail, which has been accused of using unnecessary force to remove people from events.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'British teen 'tried to grab officer's gun to kill Trump''. Print Edition | Subscribe