PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – An Ohio man is facing both state and federal charges after nearly crashing into a Pittsburgh Police motorcycle officer, running several red lights, and then ramming his truck into the security gates of the FBI building on the South Side.
But there appears to be no connection to terrorism, an FBI spokesman said.
"There's no nexus to terrorism at all from what we know now," FBI special agent Gregory Heeb said. "There's no reason to believe that was the case."
Pittsburgh Police identify the suspect as 48-year-old Thomas Ross of New Waterford, Ohio. He is described as a landscaping contractor. Police have charged him with aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, fleeing and eluding, and various other driving offenses.
He is also facing federal charges of damaging government property and causing damage to buildings or property within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
Court documents say Ross was at the FBI Building just last week, asking to see an agent. But he was turned away without incident, after he started acting erratically.
According to police, the incident started just after 10:45 a.m. along East Carson Street and ended at the FBI building located at 33rd and East Carson Streets. The entire incident lasted about three minutes.
Investigators say the motorcycle officer first spotted Ross, who was driving a dump truck, on East Carson Street. The truck was speeding and nearly hit the officer.
The truck then "drove around several vehicles stopped at a red light near South 22nd Street." Police say Ross ran through the red light, and police tried to pull him over.
The truck blew through several more red lights before stopping near the gates of the FBI building.
Police say Ross was "acting erratically," and claimed he had a bomb and "had to see the FBI."
"This individual, he was driving erratically, passed through a couple of red lights, passed a couple of stop signs," Heeb said. "They attempted to initiate a stop."
Officers tried to get him to surrender, but then he "floored on the gas and rammed the gates."
"He had a brief interaction with the officer who stopped him, indicated that he intended to ram the gate, and he took off straight towards the gate," Heeb said.
The truck was disabled by security barriers that are 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 the parking lot, Heeb said.
Ross, who appeared to have hit his head on the windshield, was tackled moments later, the FBI spokesman said.
"He went airborne for a period of time, but it slowed him down enough for us to get our hands on him," Heeb said.
The driver was taken to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital for minor injuries. After being treated there, police say Ross attempted to escape custody while being escorted to a police vehicle.
He is now being held in the Allegheny County Jail.
Investigators checked the dump truck, but "no indications of explosives were found."
No officers or other people were injured in the incident. FBI officials say the gate outside their headquarters sustained more than $1,000 in damage.
Pittsburgh Police and the FBI continue to investigate the incident.
Ross's motive remains unclear, and sources say considering the dangerous atmosphere law enforcement has recently faced, it's fortunate indeed that he wasn't shot by police or federal agents.
"What was his mental state when this happened? Anywhere the investigation leads us, we're going to go," Heeb said.
The local U.S. attorney's office, which will prosecute the federal charges that are filed, confirmed it had been contacted.
A date has not yet been set for when Ross will appear in federal court.
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