LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - A man arrested over the weekend trying to wrestle a gun from a police officer at a Las Vegas rally held by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told an investigator he wanted to kill the candidate, court papers showed on Monday (June 20).
Michael Steven Sandford, who prosecutors described as a 19-year-old British national, was arrested on Saturday at the Treasure Island hotel in Las Vegas after trying to disarm the officer, according to Las Vegas police.
According to court papers filed on Monday in federal court in Nevada, Sandford told a Secret Service agent he had driven to Las Vegas from California with the goal of shooting Trump.
“Sandford claimed he had been attempting to kill Trump for about a year but decided to act on this occasion because he finally felt confident about trying it,” the court papers said.
He was charged with committing an act of violence on restricted ground, Natalie Collins, a spokeswoman for the US Attorney’s Office, said in an email.
Sandford has not entered a plea and is scheduled to be in court for a preliminary hearing on July 5, Collins said. He faces more than 10 years in prison and a US$250,000 (S$335,900) fine if found guilty on the charge of “act of violence on restricted grounds.”
Sandford’s federal public defender, Heather Fraley, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Sandford said he had been in the United States for a year and a half, the documents showed. The records said he had lived in Hoboken, New Jersey, after coming to the country.
Court records said Sandford went to the Battlefield Vegas gun range last Friday to practice shooting, adding that he had never fired a gun before. While there, he fired 20 rounds from a Glock 9 mm handgun, the records said.
Sandford told investigators that if he were “on the street tomorrow,” he would try again, the documents said.
His arrest comes amid one of the nastiest US presidential campaigns in recent history, dominated by violent rhetoric, with Trump lashing out at Mexicans, Muslims and other groups.
The real estate billionaire 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.
A number of protesters have been arrested at his rallies where riot police are deployed in force, and there have been mounting demonstrations during his campaign appearances in recent months.
According to an investigation by the Politico news website, the security team that patrols Trump’s rallies has “at times inflamed the already high tensions around his divisive campaign, rather than defusing them.”
Trump’s critics have also accused his campaign of racial profiling and removing people from events based on their appearance.
A Trump campaign official declined to comment on Sandford’s arrest.