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Charles Ball, Man Accused Of Driving SUV Into Office Building, Tried To Use Lighter, Report Says

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SUV OFFICE BUILDING
FBI investigators and police are on the scene after a sports utility vehicle crashed into an office building at 1050 Connecticut Avenue NW in Washington, Friday, June 8, 2012. According to news reports, police said the vehicle was intentionally driven into the building and the driver and the interior of the car was doused in gasoline. | AP

WASHINGTON -- The Maryland man accused of driving a stolen Jeep Liberty SUV into a downtown office building on Friday night tried to use a lighter when police officers arrived on the scene of the crash.

According to The Associated Press, a police report shows the "vehicle's front seat was wet with a liquid that smelled like gasoline," and the driver "pulled a lighter out of his pocket and began sparking it."

Charles Morrell Ball, 32, was arrested on the scene of the crash at Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW shortly following the 7:45 p.m. incident. According to a WRC-TV/NBC4 news report Friday night, the SUV drove between steel bollards that line the sidewalk outside the office building and ended up in its lobby.

Streets adjacent to the office building, about four blocks north of the White House, were closed for much of Friday night as the incident was being investigated.

Ball was charged initially with arson, felony destruction of property and felony unauthorized use of a vehicle. But as The Washington Times reports, Ball is also facing a charge of assault with intent to kill.

Ball, who sustained minor injuries in the crash, is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.

The Washington Post, which reported that Ball had "mental-health issues" and is listed on Maryland's registry of sex offenders, quoted Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier on Saturday saying: "I don’t think it was a terrorist act."

On Friday night, according to broadcast news accounts, the chief said that the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force was asked to investigate the incident "out of an abundance of caution."

The Frederick News-Post reported:

A woman who owns the Jeep and shares the same address with Ball in the 10200 block of Ladoga Place had filed a domestic violence order against him in the hours before the crash, according to Maryland online court records. An officer with the Frederick County Sheriff's Office said the woman's orange 2010 Jeep was reported stolen the same day.

Since the SUV crash did not spark a fire, the office building, known as Washington Square, sustained only minimal damage. As the Post reported, although a single pane of full-height Pilkington glass shattered, the SUV missed a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture in the lobby.

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