UPDATE NO. 2, MARCH 4, 3:27 P.M.: A complaint was filed in federal Judge Jay C. Gandhi’s courtroom this afternoon charging Geoffrey Donald Rickner with assault on a federal officer of the United States with a deadly and dangerous weapon. What follows comes from a statement to the court by FBI Special Agent Patrick P. Baldree, who is investigating the incident. Federal officers at The Ziggurat got a call around noon about a suspicious male who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent and between ages 40 and 50. He was driving a silver Mercedes Benz “in an unusual manner,” stopping and getting out of the vehicle and pacing. When the Benz stopped facing the south parking entrance in the wrong direction, officers questioned, cuffed and briefly detained the driver. He was patted down and his ID indicated he was Geoffrey Donald Rickner. Asked what he was doing there, the man said he owed the IRS money. The officers searched the Benz trunk, found nothing unusual and let Rickner go. A call was made to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to check on Rickner’s welfare at the address on his drivers license, but it turned out to be the location of a UPS store. Federal officers got a call at 3:36 p.m. indicating Rickner was back, pacing on front of the building’s south entrance. About the time the officers who had detained Rickner before rolled up to the Benz and recognized him behind the wheel, the driver “gunned it” toward the building, hitting a pedestrian holding a black briefcase and crossing the road. The Mercedes continued forward without stopping and “rammed” through a metal roll-down gate before coming to a stop inside the building. Officers yelled at the driver to get out of the car, but he did not respond and ultimately had to be pulled out. A witness told investigators it appeared the driver deliberately tried to hit the pedestrian. The victim, identified only as “J.G.,” says he saw the driver before he was hit, thought he looked familiar and noticed he had a “determined look on his face.” J.G. figures he hit the car’s hood or windshield. He was treated at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo for broken ribs, a broken nose, hematoma around the colon area and abrasions to his hands and knees. Investigators interviewed Rickner’s parents, who say their son indicated on Tuesday that he owed the IRS $200,000 plus penalties and had been put on a payment plan. He also said the IRS had discovered a discrepancy on his life insurance policy and suspected he was hiding assets. Rickner called his father Thursday morning to further discuss the IRS issue. The son was quiet but said he was OK. The father added his son had no problems with drugs or alcohol but did suffer from depression about five years ago. Investigators also interviewed Rickner’s off-and-on girlfriend of five years. She said Rickner battled mental illness and that things had been worse the past couple weeks. She said he had a “meltdown” Thursday.
UPDATE NO. 1, MARCH 4, 11:29 A.M.: Federal authorities say more details about the case will be announced when a complaint is filed later today, but for now we can report the victim is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection investigator in the Office of Professional Responsibility. His name is still not being released at this hour. Suspect Geoffrey Donald Rickner is a broker who does or has worked with the Aliso Viejo firms GWN Securities and Medallion West. Online records indicate someone with that name has several liens against him.
ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 4, 8:58 A.M.: A 45-year-old man who reportedly had a grudge against the government was taken into custody Thursday for allegedly crashing his Mercedes-Benz sedan into The Ziggurat federal building in Laguna Niguel and injuring a man claimed to be a federal investigator.
The FBI only identified the victim as a federal employee and the motive as being unknown.
But the Los Angeles Times, citing a source “not authorized to speak on the record about the incident,” reports it was an investigator who was struck by a suspect “allegedly motivated by antipathy for the federal government.”
The suspect was identified for the record as Geoffrey Rickner of Laguna Niguel.
The unidentified victim was struck around 4:30 p.m. Thursday outside The Ziggurat. The Benz then crashed and lodged into a maintenance garage near the south side of what is formally called the Chet Holifield Federal Building at 24000 Avila Road, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
She described the employee’s injuries as “significant.”
He was hospitalized, as was Rickner, who was later arrested by officers with the Federal Protective Service, an arm of Homeland Security, on suspicion of vehicle assault. No one else was injured.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department bomb squad inspected Rickner’s car and the area around the crash for explosives, but none were found. The Benz was then towed away.
Eimiller says Rickner, who is now in federal custody, could be charged as early as today.