|Attempted assassination of Donald Trump|
Donald Trump addressing a rally in Las Vegas, Nevada in February 2016.
|Location||Mystère Theater, Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States|
|Date||June 18, 2016
c.9:00 AM (Pacific)
|Weapons||9mm Glock 17 pistol|
|Perpetrator||Michael Steven Sandford|
|Motive||Prevent Trump from becoming President of the United States|
On June 18, 2016, Michael Steven Sandford was arrested at a Donald Trump presidential campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada in the United States after he unsuccessfully attempted to seize the pistol of a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officer providing security for the event. At the time, Trump was the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party for the 2016 United States presidential election.
Sandford, a 20-year-old British citizen who had a lengthy history of mental disorders, stated that he had wished to kill Trump to prevent him from becoming President. He was charged with impeding and disrupting the orderly conduct of government business and official functions and with being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm. On September 13, 2016, he pled guilty to both charges. On December 13, 2016, he was sentenced to 12 months and one day's imprisonment. He was released and deported to the United Kingdom in May 2017.
The incident received limited media coverage in the United States. Some conservative publications criticized the length of Sandford's prison sentence. In the United Kingdom, the incident prompted calls for changes to the Mental Capacity Act in light of Sandford's mental disorders and was the subject of a BBC documentary.
Sandford spent one year planning the assassination, deciding to attempt it while Trump was addressing a rally in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 18, 2016. He acquired a ticket for the event, also reserving a ticket for a subsequent rally to be held in Phoenix, Arizona in case an opportunity did not arise. Sandford considered using a knife or rifle before deciding to attempt the assassination using a pistol.
On June 16, 2016, Sandford drove to Las Vegas, where he visited a shooting range and practiced shooting using a rented 9mm Glock 17 pistol. This was the first time in his life Sandford had fired a gun. Due to his status as an illegal alien, the rental of a firearm was illegal.
On the evening of June 17, 2016, Sandford joined a queue at the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino for the following day's rally. At 9:00 AM the following morning, the approximately 1,500 rally attendees were allowed into the Mystère Theater. Due to Trump's political candidacy, the event was under the protection of the United States Secret Service, and magnetometers were used to detect weapons being brought into the venue.
As Trump was speaking, Sandford noticed that Ameel Jacob, a police officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department who was providing security for the event, appeared to have his 9mm Glock 17 pistol unlocked in its holster. Sandford approached Jacob, who was positioned approximately nine meters (30 feet) from the stage where Trump was speaking, and engaged him in conversation, saying that he wanted Trump's autograph. While talking to Jacob, Sandford attempted to seize Jacob's pistol with both hands but was unable to remove it from its holster. Sandford was immediately subdued by Jacob and two other police officers. Sandford was described as appearing "confused" at the time of his arrest.
After being taken into custody by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Sandford was handed over to the United States Secret Service. After agreeing to waive his Miranda rights, Sandford was interrogated by two Special Agents, during which time he stated that his intent had been to shoot Trump, and that he would attempt it again if he were able. Sandford also stated that he had only anticipated being able to fire "one to two" shots and that he had expected to be killed.
Following his arrest, Sandford was held in the Nevada Southern Detention Center. Due to his mental health conditions, Sandford was kept in solitary confinement and repeatedly put under suicide watch. On June 20, 2016, a complaint was filed with the United States District Court for the District of Nevada charging Sandford with committing an act of violence on restricted ground. Sandford appeared in a Nevada District Court on June 20, 2016, where he was charged with committing an act of violence on restricted ground. Sandford's public defender, Heather Fraley, argued that Sandford should be bailed to a halfway house given his lack of a criminal record, but he was denied bail by judge George Foley Jr. on the basis that he presented a flight risk and was a potential danger to the community. On June 29, a federal grand jury responded to an indictment filed by United States Attorney Daniel Bogden by charging Sandford with three felonies: two counts of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm and one count of impeding and disrupting the orderly conduct of government business and official functions. Each charge carried a maximum sentence of 10 years' imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also issued a detainer against Sandford relating to an immigration violation.
Sandford was arraigned on July 7, 2016, pleading not guilty. His trial was set for August 22, 2016. On September 13, 2016, Sandford pled guilty in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada to charges of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm and impeding and disrupting the orderly conduct of government business and official functions, saying "I tried to take a gun from a policeman to shoot someone with, and I'm pleading guilty". Prior to his trial, Sandford had, at the urging of his family members, signed a plea agreement that reduced his maximum sentence from 20 years to 27 months. A third charge of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm was dropped. Sandford apologized for his actions, saying "I know saying sorry is not enough. I really do feel awful about what I did. I wish there was some way to make things better. I have cost taxpayers so much money. I feel terrible." Sandford subsequently claimed to have no memory of the assassination attempt.
Sandford was sentenced on December 13, 2016, receiving 12 months and one day's imprisonment. The sentencing judge, James C. Mahan, acknowledged Sandford's mental health issues, stating "I don't think you harbored malice in your heart...You have a medical problem...I don't see you as evil or a sociopath". The length of the sentence reflected the extenuating circumstances. As the sentence was below 18 months, the prosecution was entitled to appeal, but did not. As part of the plea bargain, Sandford waived his own right to appeal.
Sandford served most of his sentence in the Nevada Southern Detention Center. In January 2017, Sandford's mother expressed concerns that Trump - by then President of the United States - would seek to extend Sandford's sentence, and stated that Sandford was being harassed by "Trump-supporting guards and inmates". In February 2017, Sandford was relocated to a different jail. Sandford became eligible for early release in April 2017; the following month, he was released from prison and deported to the United Kingdom. Following his release, Sandford's mother lobbied for changes to the Mental Capacity Act that would give parents more control over adult offspring with mental disorders.
Michael Steven Sandford (born April 21, 1996, in Dorking, Surrey, England, United Kingdom) is a British citizen. During his childhood, Sandford experienced numerous mental and physical health issues, and was diagosed with Asperger syndrome.
In January 2015, Sandford made a two-week trip to New York City in the United States, during which time he had a mental breakdown and was sectioned overnight. Later that year, Sandford returned to the United States and leased an apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey. Over the following months, his behavior became "erratic" and his family gradually lost contact with him. On May 21, 2015, Sandford's mother contacted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to report him missing. Sandford's entitlement to remain in the United States under the Visa Waiver Program expired on August 30, 2015. Unbeknownst to his family, he had left his apartment and relocated to San Bernardino, California, where he was living in his car and supporting himself by working odd jobs.
Following his arrest, Sandford told his father that "if Trump was elected, it would change the world [...] somebody had to stand up for America." He expressed to his father his concern about policies of Trump's such as building a barrier along the United States–Mexico border and halting immigration to the United States by Muslims, calling Trump a racist. Psychiatrists who examined Sandford determined that he had been "delusional" and undergoing a "psychotic episode" at the time of the assassination attempt; treating him with the antipsychotic medicine risperidone. Following his release, Sandford stated that at this time, "I was hearing voices telling me to kill Donald Trump [...]. At one point they were screaming at me."
Sandford's father stated that the assassination attempt was entirely out of character for his son and suggested that Sandford had been "put up to do it or blackmailed," or that the attempt was a "cry for help". His mother also suggested that the attempt was a bid for help. His grandmother suggested Sandford was attempting suicide by cop. Sandford's mother later suggested that Sandford "was fuelled by his girlfriend and friends out there putting ideas in his head saying, 'Trump's evil, Trump must be stopped' and basically we feel grooming him into it".
Trump briefly acknowledged the removal of Sandford from the theater, breaking his speech to say "We love you, police. Thank you. Thank you, officers." as Sandford was arrested, but was unaware that Sandford had intended to kill him until later seeing it reported on television. When asked in an interview with Maria Bartiromo about Sandford allegedly having overstayed in the United States, Trump speculated that there were "millions" of people in the United States who had overstayed their visas, stating "We have no idea who's in our country." Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., praised the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and United States Secret Service for protecting his father. Daniel Bogden, the United States Attorney for the District of Nevada, praised the "attentiveness and quick action" of security personnel in foiling the attempt.
The assassination attempt received limited coverage in the American media. Writing in The Washington Post, Callum Borchers suggested that this was due to the "feebly unsophisticated" and "poorly conceived" nature of the attempt (drawing parallels to Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, who made an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Barack Obama in 2011) and due to Trump's lack of interest in using the attempt to lobby for increased gun control. Borchers noted, however, that a number of conservative news outlets had made accusations that the media was intentionally providing little coverage of the event. Writing in Bustle, Kastalia Medrano suggested "even if Trump's life wasn't in imminent danger, the attempt did happen, and it should have been a bigger story than it was", noting that both liberal and conservative media had given the event limited coverage. Following Sandford's arrest, the conservative American political blog Hot Air criticized the media coverage of the event, claiming that the media was "curiously uninterested". Upon Sandford's guilty plea, Hot Air suggested that "[Sandford is] getting off fairly light when you consider he was trying to murder a presidential candidate". Writing in the Bucks County Courier Times, columnist J.D. Mullane described the incident as "this year’s most under-reported political news story" and "a case of bare naked bias by national media", suggesting that an assassination attempt on Hillary Clinton would have received greater coverage. In August 2016, journalist Leonard Pitts Jr. noted that "the story didn't get much play" as "the attempt wasn't well planned and [Trump] was never in jeopardy". In her 2017 book The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain, Sayeeda Warsi, Baroness Warsi argued that the limited coverage of the attempt was part of a concerted effort by the American and British media to present terrorism as "a Muslim issue" and that that Trump himself had downplayed the event as "a white British non-Muslim man did not fit his narrative of 'threat'."
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