Tags: fence | White House | Obama | Secret Service

Man Who Jumped White House Fence Had a Knife

By    |   Saturday, 20 Sep 2014 11:47 PM

The man who got inside the White House on Friday after jumping a fence and running more than 70 yards across the North Lawn is an Iraqi war veteran who was carrying a knife with a serrated blade, according to news reports on Saturday.

Omar Gonzalez, 42, of Copperas Cove, Texas, was charged with unlawful entry and other offenses in the incident, which occurred Friday at about 7:20 p.m., The Washington Post reports.

He scaled a fence about 10 minutes after the helicopter carrying President Barack Obama and his daughters lifted off the south grounds for Camp David in Maryland, according to the Post.

On Sunday, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee Sunday that it was astonishing, at a time of concerns about terrorist attacks, that "someone could actually get into the White House without being stopped."

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said the intrusion was "absolutely inexcusable" and he expected congressional hearings into the incident at one of the world's most heavily secured buildings.

"This demands a full investigation, an investigation as to what happened, why it happened and what's being done to make sure it never happens again," he told "Fox News Sunday."

Gonzalez, whom former relatives said had served as an Army sniper in Iraq, had gotten inside the front door of the White House before he was subdued by an officer in the vestibule, the Post reports.

He had a folding knife with a 2 1/2 inch serrated blade. It took about 20 seconds for Gonzalez to sprint from the fence to the White House, the Post reports.

Gonzalez's success in getting inside the White House led the Secret Service to launch a security review. The front door on the North Portico of the mansion was unlocked when the incident occurred.

The door is used frequently, and it is one flight of stairs from the Obamas' living quarters. A trained attack dog, which is generally used by the Secret Service to stop intruders when officers cannot, was not used in this case, the Post reports.

The reasons are part of the Secret Service review, launched by Secret Service Director Julia Pierson.

President Obama insisted, however, that he still had confidence in the Secret Service's ability to protect him and his family.

"The president has full confidence in the Secret Service and is grateful to the men and women who day in and day out protect himself, his family and the White House," said spokesman Frank Benenati.

He said the White House expected Pierson's review to be conducted "with the same professionalism and commitment to duty that we and the American people expect from the U.S. Secret Service."

Pierson ordered enhanced officer patrols and surveillance along the North Fence of the compound just after the incident on Friday evening, which triggered a rare evacuation of the White House as well as renewed scrutiny of the Secret Service.

Less than 24 hours after Gonzalez's arrest, a second man was apprehended after he drove up to a White House gate and refused to leave, the Secret Service said. The incident prompted bomb technicians in full gear to search the vehicle as agents shut down nearby streets.

That man, whose name was not released, was arrested for trespassing.

Authorities had no indication that the events were related. Yet their occurrence in short succession only intensified the scrutiny of the Secret Service, which is still struggling to rehabilitate its image following allegations of misconduct by agents in recent years, including those on Obama's detail.

Gonzalez was taken to a nearby hospital after his arrest for a psychiatric evaluation. He told agents who subdued him that he was very concerned that the "atmosphere was collapsing" and that he needed to get the president to get the word out to the people, the Post reports.

He was ordered held without bond in jail in Washington until his case is transferred to U.S. District Court, where he is scheduled to appear on Monday.

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His assistant public defender, Margarita O’Donnell, said that Gonzalez had served 18 years in the U.S. military, including three tours in Iraq, the Post reports. She argued in court that the knife he was carrying could have been related to his employment.

Gonzalez's former stepson, Jerry Murphy, told the Post that he had spent six years in Iraq with Army Special Forces as a sniper.

"He’s a very good guy. He is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder," Murphy said. "I don’t believe he had any intention in hurting anybody. He has served his country for years."

He told the Post that Gonzalez was not a terrorist but that he had been living out of his car the past two years, driving around the country with his two dogs.

His former neighbors in Texas, where records indicate Gonzalez last lived, said he moved out about two years ago.

Army Sgt. 1st Class David Haslach, who lives two doors down from Gonzalez's former home, said Gonzalez had been in the U.S. military and told him that he had received a medical discharge.

He and another former neighbor, Elke Warner, both recalled that Gonzalez seemed paranoid in the months before he left town.

"At the end, he got so weird. He had motion detector lights put in," Warner said. She added that she last saw Gonzalez about a year and a half ago at a nearby camp site, where he was apparently living with his two dogs.

The incident led Rep. Jason Chaffetz to attack the Secret Service's ability to protect the president and his family.

"Unfortunately, they are failing to do their job," the Utah Republican said. "These are good men and women, but the Secret Service leadership has a lot of questions to answer."

"Was the door open?" he added incredulously.

Chaffetz is chairman of the House subcommittee on national security oversight.

In recent years, the Secret Service has struggled to strike the appropriate balance between ensuring the first family's security and preserving the public's access to the White House grounds.

Once open to vehicles, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was confined to pedestrians after the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, but officials have been reluctant to restrict access further.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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The man who got inside the White House on Friday after jumping a fence and running more than 70 yards across the North Lawn is an Iraqi war veteran who was carrying a knife with a serrated blade, according to news reports on Saturday.Omar Gonzalez, 42, of Copperas Cove,...
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Saturday, 20 Sep 2014 11:47 PM
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