A British man accused of telling authorities that he wanted to kill Donald Trump at a rally was unemployed, living out of his car and had been treated in the past for obsessive compulsive disorder and anorexia, authorities and others say.
Court statements and accounts Tuesday from a family friend in England offered a complex picture of 20-year-old suspect Michael Steven Sandford, who was arrested Saturday in a Las Vegas casino where the Republican candidate was speaking.
People who knew Sandford told The Associated Press he was intelligent and said signs of his Asperger’s syndrome became more obvious as he got older.
“I just didn’t imagine that he would do what he was doing,” said Julie Debnam, 59, whose son attended primary school with Sandford and often spent time with him. “I still think he has a lot of low esteem. He needs help rather than going to prison, basically.”
A woman who answered the door at an address listed for Sandford’s father, in a working class section of Havant, England, declined to give her name and told journalists to go back to their own country.
The British newspaper Portsmouth News said Sandford’s father, Paul Davey, described his son as polite and peaceful and called the arrest an “absolute shock.”
“Whether he’s been blackmailed or put up to it, that’s the only thing me and his mum can think of,” Davey said, according to the newspaper. “It’s so against his nature and obviously with his Asperger’s, we think somebody has got hold of him and done something.”
U.S. Secret Service agents say Sandford approached an officer at the Trump campaign stop last weekend to say he wanted Trump’s autograph then tried to take the officer’s gun.
In an interview, Sandford told agents that he wanted to shoot Trump and was prepared to die at the hands of police in the assassination attempt, according to the criminal complaint.
Sandford was charged with an act of violence on restricted grounds and was assigned a court-appointed attorney.
He has not yet entered a plea and was denied bail after a judge said he was a flight risk and posed a threat to the community.
“There may be some issues regarding the mental health of the defendant,” U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley Jr. said during a court hearing Monday, while the thin, shackled Sandford appeared to tremble in his seat nearby.
Sandford has not recently been diagnosed with mental illness but had been treated for anorexia and obsessive compulsive disorder when he was younger, according to background information that court officials gathered and discussed in court.
Public defender Heather Fraley said Sandford previously attempted suicide and once ran away from a hospital in England. Still, she believes he’s competent to stand trial.
Court research shows Sandford didn’t have a job and received financial support from his mother after coming to the U.S. last year.
Davey told the Portsmouth News that his son had moved to New Jersey a year and a half ago to be with a girlfriend.
Officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement say he stayed about nine months longer than he was allowed through the Visa Waiver program, and they’ve lodged a detainer against him so they can take action on the immigration violation before he’s released.
Sandford told Secret Service agents that he drove his 2007 BMW from the San Bernardino, California, area to Las Vegas on June 16. The next day, he went to a shooting range and fired 20 rounds from a 9mm Glock pistol to learn how to use it, according to the complaint.
Sandford said he had been planning to kill Trump for about a year but finally felt confident about trying it, the complaint states.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Justin W says
This guy should get a nice long prison sentence in a federal work prison. He is in our country illegally. He is a criminal based on that fact alone. A message should be sent that foreigners who attempt to assassinate an American presidential candidate is going to face a long prison sentence.
If this guy had mental problems he should have been hospitalized in Great Britain rather than being allowed to travel around the world. This is what happens when we run a loose ship on immigration.
“He needs help rather than prison.” NO, he needs to be in prison where he can get the help he needs! Put it in the correct perspective!
Linda Sinclair says
The government must find out who is behind him. A person can make a plan to kill someone for a year cannot be considered sick in any kind. He is a competent person, so he must go through the process like a regular person. The question is all terrors are sick? No, they’re not. Anyone can make a plan in the long-term is smart.
He had no job but was driving a BMW. Where did that come from? Something about this whole story doesn’t make sense.
Totally agree. If he can drive a 2007 BMW while NOT having a job, he’s doing a whole lot better than most of us. Just who is financing this guy??????
Someone needs to follow the money trail.
Linda Sinclair says
Henry Vera says
send that trash back to his Queen and send her the bill…
The woman who answered the door, at Sanford’s father’s house, told journalists to go back to their own country……….Well, Sanford should have gone back to his own country when his visa expired!!!!!! and keep out of American affairs and elections. Now he should go to prison, no excuse using Aspergers. Furthermore, he had a car here in America, he was living in it. Why did it not come up that his visa expired and he was now an illegal immigrant. Had he been successful in his assassination attempt, gun control & background checks would not have stopped him. Check the illegals already!
LORETTA SCHOGGENS says
YOU REFERE TO HIMAS BRITISH IF SO WHY IS HE NOT DEPORTED ? I WAS BRITISH BUT HAVE BEEN A CITZEN