PITTSBURGH (AP) — A dump truck driver who said he had a bomb deliberately smashed his truck through a security gate of the FBI’s offices on Tuesday, but no bomb was found and there appeared to be no connection to terrorism, authorities said.
The driver, 48-year-old Thomas Richard Ross, of New Waterford, Ohio, was injured in the crash but nobody else was hurt, they said.
The truck was moving erratically and ran eight or nine red lights before a Pittsburgh police officer pulled it over late Tuesday morning near the FBI building on the city’s South Side, authorities said. The driver initially refused to surrender and was “acting erratically, claiming to have a bomb,” and although he later acted as though he was going to surrender he instead floored the gas pedal and rammed the gate, the Pittsburgh public safety department said.
The truck was disabled by security barriers meant to prevent vehicles from driving into the fenced-in office complex. The barriers include a large steel panel that rises out of the ground at the gate, which caused the truck to go slightly airborne before slamming into a light pole in a parking lot, FBI special agent Gregory Heeb said. The driver, who appeared to have hit his head on the windshield, was tackled moments later, Heeb said.
FBI agents checked the truck for bombs and other weapons that might signal an intended attack and found nothing.
“There’s no nexus to terrorism at all from what we know now,” Heeb said. “There’s no reason to believe that was the case.”
Ross was hospitalized briefly for treatment of minor injuries, but afterward, while being escorted to a police cruiser, he tried to escape, authorities said. He was taken to Allegheny County jail, where he couldn’t be reached for comment. No telephone listing for him could be found, and it was unclear whether he had an attorney.
This may not have been the first time Ross showed up at the FBI headquarters. A security guard said he saw Ross there last week, checking things out. The guard said Ross was driving the same vehicle used on Tuesday, and parked it at a nearby convenience store.
Ross faces numerous charges including aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, fleeing and eluding and various driving offenses, the Pittsburgh public safety department said. The U.S. attorney’s office said he had been charged with damaging government property, with the FBI estimating damage could top $350,000.
Local authorities said they were working with the FBI on the case. Heeb said the main focus was the driver’s mental state and his history.
Officials said the truck was registered in Ohio but there was no indication why it was in Pittsburgh.