US man charged with trying to assassinate Barack Obama by firing at White House
Published 18/11/2011 | 07:48
A MAN accused of opening fire on the White House with an assault rifle has been charged with attempting to assassinate President Barack Obama.
Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, 21, was said by investigators to be obsessed with the President and the First Family and on Friday night allegedly drove to within range of the White House and fired several rounds.
The US Secret Service found that two bullets had struck the building and one had cracked a window on the second floor of the family residence.
President Obama and his wife Michelle were travelling in California at the time of the shooting but the White House would not comment on whether his daughters, Sasha and Malia, were in the building at the time.
According to witnesses interviewed by the FBI, Ortega-Hernandez had referred to President Obama as "the Anti-Christ" and "the devil" and said that he "needed to kill him". In the last month he grew increasingly more agitated
Ortega-Hernandez was caught on Wednesday after a hotel clerk in Pennsylvania recognised his picture. The Idaho native made his first court appearance yesterday, where he spoke only to confirm that he understood that he would be taken back to Washington to face charges.
The heavily tattooed suspect - who has the word "Israel" - written on his neck was still throughout the hearing in Pittsburgh and said only "Yes, ma'am" in response to question from the magistrate.
The maximum penalty for attempting to assassinate the President is life in prison.
Gunshots were reported on Constitution Avenue, which runs around 600m from the south face of the White House, at around 9.30pm on Friday night. Witnesses said they heard as many as eight shots fired and that the shooter was clad all in black when he opened fire.
US Park Police later found an abandoned Honda Accord near a bridge leading from Washington DC into neighbouring Virginia. A high-powered rifle with a scope and several magazines of ammunition were discovered inside along with an aluminium baseball bat and a set of brass knuckles.
In the past 40 years, the White House has faced threats ranging from a stolen helicopter that landed on the grounds in 1974 to a man who wielded a sawed-off shotgun on a sidewalk outside in 1984. In 1994 alone, there were five threats including a plane crash on the lawn and a suspected drive-by shooting. Another man fired at least 29 rounds from a semi-automatic weapon, with 11 striking the White House.