WASHINGTON: A man who jumped over a White House fence and entered the presidential mansion was carrying a folding knife and claimed to be an Iraq war veteran, triggering a security review.
The White House—the president’s workplace and home —is generally regarded as one of the most secure and protected places on the planet.
All the more troubling, Secret Service officials said, that the fence jumper, identified as 42-year-old Omar Gonzalez, had entered the building unimpeded late Friday after sprinting across the North Lawn.
President Barack Obama and his family were not home at the time, though officials and journalists were rushed out of the building during the evening disturbance.
“I ran toward Omar Gonzalez and yelled at him to stop. Instead, Omar Gonzalez ran toward the White House,” a Security Service agent said in an affidavit.
Gonzalez, of Copperas Cove, Texas, was arrested just after entering through the North Portico doors of the White House.
Agents found a Spyderco VG-10 black folding knife with a 3.5-inch (8.90-centimeter) serrated blade in his right front pants pocket, according to the affidavit.
During an initial appearance in US District Court in Washington on Saturday, he was charged with unlawful entry while in possession of a deadly or dangerous weapon. He faces up to 10 years behind bars.
After his arrest, Gonzalez told a Security Service agent that “he was concerned that the atmosphere was collapsing and needed to get the information to the President of the United States so that he could get the word out to the people,” according to the affidavit.
The document also said that Gonzalez claimed he had served three tours of duty in Iraq.
“Although last night the officers showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with this subject, the location of Gonzalez’s arrest is not acceptable,” the Secret Service said.
An agency within the Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service is tasked with protecting America’s highest elected officials and visiting foreign officials, and securing events of national significance.