The British teenager who tried to steal a policeman's gun in order to shoot and kill Donald Trump at a rally in Las Vegas on Saturday has been described as a young man with no interest in politics who was obsessed with a TV show featuring fighting robots.
Michael Sandford, 19, from Dorking in Surrey, was arrested and appeared in court on Monday, accused with travelling to Las Vegas specifically to kill Trump.
According to court documents, Sandford told a Secret Service agent he had visited a firing range days earlier to learn how to handle a gun – his first experience of shooting a firearm.
He was charged by federal prosecutors with an act of violence on restricted grounds, was remanded in custody, and will reappear in court on 5 July.
Two women, one of whom is believed to be Sandford's mother, were escorted by police out of an address in Dorking on Tuesday. Surrey police declined to comment.
The Foreign Office confirmed that it was providing assistance to a British national arrested in Las Vegas.
But as news of the arrest filtered through to the UK, a picture of Sandford began to emerge.
Sandford's family claim he is not politically motivated, or even that aware of current affairs.
Speaking to The Sun, Sandford's father, Paul Davey, said: "It’s totally out of character and we’re worried about what has happened to him since he’s been in America because obviously it’s a dramatic change.
"Whether he’s been blackmailed or put up to it, that’s the only thing me and his mum can think of. It’s so against his nature and obviously with his Asperger's, we think somebody has got hold of him and done something."
The court heard on Monday that Sandford has Asperger's syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder, the AP reported. A federal prosecutor also said he had been recently living in his car.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement Tuesday that Sandford had entered the U.S. on June 2, 2015, through the visa waiver program that allows British citizens to travel in the U.S. for up to 90 days.
Davey, who is separated from Lynn, Sandford's mother, said his son moved to the US 15 months ago to be with an American woman he had met in the UK. His family gave him money to buy a flat in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Davey said Sandford, who occasionally spoke to his family via Skype but never in detail, ran out of money three months ago. His family sent more cash but also asked him to come home. The family even contacted the British embassy in the hope of getting some help in sending him back to Britain.
It also emerged that Sandford was obsessed with radio-controlled robots that had appeared in the TV series Robot Wars.
He bought three robots, Mr Nasty, Steel Avenger, and X-Terminator, all of which appeared in the show. Sandford and his mother and father were listed as members of "Team Enigma" on a robot fighting community site, although it's unclear whether they participated in any competitions.
John Findlay, who competed on the show and later formed a company focused on fighting robots, knew Sandford and sold him some of his robots. In 2014 Sandford asked if Findlay would buy them back for £1,000 because of a "financial crisis".
Findlay told The Mirror: "I'm totally shocked. When I saw his picture it was just totally freaky. He went through a phase of buying a load of robots starting around five years ago, then he just disappeared.
"He was quite active in the robot community for a while — buying famous robots from the show. He was a bit obsessed.
"I then got them working for him because he had absolutely no idea about robots. I believe he had some form of autism – Robot Wars attracts quite a lot of people with autism. He was calm, very quiet, a little bit weird and reserved. That was it."
John Findlay appeared on Robot Wars as a contestant and later sold robots to Sandford. An earlier version of this article misstated Findlay's role in the TV show.
Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Patrick Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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