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Wednesday 6 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
John Locher/AP/Press Association Images Michael Steven Sandford being removed from the venue.
Las Vegas

British man tried to steal police officer's gun to kill Donald Trump

Authorities said Michael Steven Sandford (20) pretended to want Trump’s autograph before attempting to take the weapon.

A BRITISH MAN arrested at a Donald Trump rally in Las Vegas at the weekend tried to grab a police officer’s gun so he could kill the presidential candidate after planning an assassination for about a year, according to authorities.

US Secret Service agents said Michael Steven Sandford approached a Las Vegas police officer at the campaign stop to say he wanted Trump’s autograph, but that he then tried to take the weapon.

A complaint filed yesterday in the US District Court in Nevada charges Sandford (20) with an act of violence on restricted grounds. He was denied bail during a court appearance later in the day. His court-appointed lawyer said he was living out of his car and in the country illegally after overstaying a visa.

Sandford has not entered a plea.

The arrest happened relatively quietly at a campaign stop seen as peaceful compared to the mayhem at the presumptive Republican nominee’s recent events in San Jose, California, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Gregg Donovan was among about 1,500 people gathered on Saturday to see Trump at the Treasure Island casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

He said he didn’t know about the charge against Sandford until he saw news reports. But he recognised him because the two had stood in line together for nine hours waiting to get into the Trump event. Sandford even held Donovan’s spot in line for a bathroom break.

“I was number five, and he was number four,” Donovan said.

He added that they spoke, though Sandford didn’t say much and seemed “strange”. Donovan didn’t elaborate on what made Sandford seem odd.

After waiting, they passed through metal detectors manned by Secret Service, police and casino security officials.

Danger to the community 

Federal Magistrate Judge George Foley said in court yesterday that Sandford was a potential danger to the community and a flight risk. Sandford wore leg irons and appeared to tremble during the hearing.

Heather Fraley, his assigned public defender, said Sandford appeared to be competent. She said he hadn’t been diagnosed with a mental illness but that he has autism and previously attempted suicide. He doesn’t have a job.

trump Niall Carson / PA Wire/Press Association Images Donald Trump Niall Carson / PA Wire/Press Association Images / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Sandford’s mother told court researchers that he was treated for obsessive compulsive disorder and anorexia when he was younger, and that he once ran away from a hospital in England, according to the public defender.

Fraley argued that Sandford should go to a halfway house because he didn’t have a criminal history, but the judge said he should stay in detention ahead of a 5 July court date.

Agents said Sandford told them he had been in the US for about a-year-and-a-half, lived in Hoboken, New Jersey, and drove to the San Bernardino, California, area before coming to Las Vegas on 16 June.

Sandford told officers he was convinced he would die in the assassination attempt. He said he also reserved a ticket for a Trump rally in Phoenix, scheduled for later on Saturday, as a backup plan.

The criminal complaint said Sandford was arrested after grabbing the handle of an officer’s gun while trying to remove it from a holster.

Sanford told authorities that he went to the Battlefield Vegas shooting range the day before the rally and fired 20 rounds from a 9mm Glock pistol to learn how to use it. Police detectives who visited the range spoke with an employee who confirmed that he provided Sandford shooting lessons, according to the complaint signed by Secret Service Special Agent Joseph Hall.

Read: Four proposals to bring in tighter gun controls in the US are rejected

Read: SUV that rolled and killed Anton Yelchin was being recalled

Associated Foreign Press
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