The tip received by police was vague, but potentially dire: a Pennsylvania physician was on his way to the nation's capital with a carload of weapons, planning to visit the president.
As a result, Bryan Moles, 43, of Edinboro, Pa., was arrested on weapons charges after checking in to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, a few blocks from the White House.
He is expected to make an initial court appearance Thursday afternoon.
While the Secret Service interviewed Moles and determined he posed no threat to the president or anyone else they protect, D.C.'s police chief said the tip averted a potential disaster.
"I was very concerned about this circumstance," Chief Peter Newsham said. When people come to the District "armed with those types of weapons, it's a serious concern . . . He doesn't have a really good reason for being here."
Moles was charged with carrying a pistol without a license and having unregistered ammunition. A police report said authorities seized a Glock 23 pistol, a Bushmaster assault-style rifle, and 90 rounds of ammunition from Moles' vehicle.
Newsham added that the department does not presently have enough evidence to charge Moles with making threats.
Newsham declined to comment on what may have motivated Moles. He said he did not have a license to carry firearms in the District, which has strict gun laws. He did not know whether he was licensed to carry in Pennsylvania.
Dorian Adamik, the police chief in Cambridge Springs, Pa., said the department got a call from a resident about Moles on Tuesday night. Adamik said the resident's daughter had received a text message from Moles that said "something to the effect of he was traveling to D.C. with a carload of weapons and he was going to visit the president." The tip was passed on to Pennsylvania State Police and eventually to authorities in Washington.
The Secret Service said its agents and local police began investigating a potential threat. But Deputy Special Agent Michael Ball said the Secret Service had determined Moles "posed no threat" to any of the people the Secret Service protects, which includes presidents and vice presidents and their families, former presidents and visiting foreign dignitaries.
Moles' Facebook page is sprinkled with comments and photos indicating support for Trump. On Friday, he posted a question: "If you had to choose between a Hilton Hotel and a Trump hotel, which would you choose and why?" Someone replied, "Trump all the way. The dark side wants to disarm the public so they can . . . just walk through any resistance to their fascist thought police." Moles liked the comment.
A longtime friend of Moles said "there is absolutely no way" he was planning violence. Lisa DellaRatta, a nurse practitioner in Florida, said she's known him for more than 25 years and used to live with him. She said Moles "cannot be a more standup man."
She said guns are prevalent in the rural area near Lake Erie where she and Moles grew up, and he's always owned them.
Pennsylvania records show Moles renewed his license to practice medicine in October 2016. A spokeswoman at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center system said he had been placed on administrative leave there some time before Wednesday's arrest. Moles worked at Saint Vincent Hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, until late 2013, according to Dan Laurent, a spokesman for Allegheny Health Network.
Moles served in the U.S. Navy from 1992 to 2006. He was a hospital corpsman, and was in the reserves in Erie for the last nine years of his service. He received several honors, including a Navy Reserve Meritorious Service Medal and a Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon.
His hometown of Edinboro is about 350 miles from Washington.
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