WASHINGTON — An American man has been arrested and charged with attempted murder in the western Venezuelan state of Tachira, the Associated Press reported.
Authorities raided Todd Michael Leininger’s house in Tachira, according to a statement by Venezuela’s Supreme Court, which said he had shot a man named Jorge Santos Sandoval. According to the Venezuelan authorities, Leininger, 32, had been living in the country for two months.
“We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen has been arrested in Venezuela,” a State Department official told BuzzFeed. “The Department of State takes its obligation to assist U.S. citizens overseas seriously. We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular services in cases where U.S. citizens are detained or arrested abroad. Because of privacy considerations, we are unable to comment further.”
In a press release, Tachira Gov. José Gregorio Vielma Mora wrote that Leininger had been found with multiple weapons and camouflage gear. A post on the Tachira state website shows authorities displaying the weapons and gear allegedly belonging to Leininger. A Venezuelan woman named Vivian Arreaza Sandova was also reportedly arrested.
Spanish-language news reports have identified Leininger as an “alleged U.S. agent” and reported that he was found with a document indicating he was connected to a U.S. military or police force. Mora claimed on Wednesday that Leininger is connected to “factors of the Venezuelan right.”
A reporter for Venezuelan state television wrote on Twitter that Leininger is from Florida but maintains a residence in Indiana. A Todd Michael Leininger is listed as having an address in Bloomington, Ind., as well as a Vivian Leininger aka Vivian Arreaza.
Taricha’s capital San Cristobal, a major student city, has been a major focal point of months of anti-government protests that began in February as a response to an increasingly dire economic and security situation in Venezuela.