Driver charged with striking federal employee was detained and released earlier by U.S. authorities

Driver charged with striking federal employee was detained and released earlier by U.S. authorities
The Chet Holifield Federal Building in Laguna Niguel. (Bob Greiser / Los Angeles Times)

A man accused of running over a federal employee and slamming into the exterior of a federal building in Orange County was charged with assault, authorities said Friday.

Geoffrey Rickner, 45, was charged with assault of a federal officer of the United States using a deadly and dangerous weapon, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday in federal court in Santa Ana.


About 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Rickner allegedly struck a security specialist with the Department of Homeland Security outside the Chet Holifield Federal Building in Laguna Niguel and crashed into a maintenance garage near the side of the facility, authorities said.

Rickner had earlier been detained at the building but returned, according to the complaint.

About noon Thursday, the Federal Protection Service received a call of a suspicious male in a silver Mercedes Benz who was driving in an "unusual manner" and pacing outside the car.

An inspector with the Federal Protection Service found Rickner's car stopped and facing the wrong direction near a parking lot entrance, prosecutors said.

When authorities temporarily arrested him, Rickner repeatedly told them he owed money to the IRS. He had previously told his parents he owed $200,000 plus penalties, according to court records.

He was released after authorities searched the car, finding nothing.

Rickner returned a few hours later.

The same inspector who arrested Rickner earlier spotted him again about 4:30 p.m. Rickner "gunned" the car, according to the complaint, driving through an intersection, hitting the federal employee in a crosswalk and slamming into the building.

The security specialist suffered broken ribs, a broken nose and injuries to the colon area, according to court papers.

Later, Rickner's girlfriend told federal authorities he has been suffering from a mental illness and that she believed it had worsened over the last two weeks.

Completed in 1971 for Rockwell International, the building, colloquially known as "the Ziggurat," was taken over by the U.S. government in 1974, according to the General Services Administration. The Department of Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service are the main tenants in the building.

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Times staff writer Matt Hamilton contributed to this report.