Omar J. Gonzalez could spend 15 years in prison following his White House intrusion, which has raised serious questions about the Secret Service.
A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted Gonzalez, 42, formerly of Copperas Cove, Texas, on one federal charge of unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds, while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon, and two violations of D.C. law: carrying a dangerous weapon outside a home or place of business, and unlawful possession of ammunition.
U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and Kathy A. Michalko, a special agent in charge of the Secret Service's Washington field office, announced the charges against Gonzalez, who has been in custody since his arrest on Sept. 19. According to the federal prosecutor's evidence, it was around 7:19 p.m. when Gonzalez climbed over the north fence of the White House. A Secret Service officer ran toward him and yelled at him to stop, but Gonzalez ran toward the executive mansion. Moments later, he went through the north doors and entered the building. The government says he was apprehended inside the White House, though they did not note how far inside the complex the Iraq war veteran made it.
Secret Service Director Julia A. Pierson testified to a congressional panel on Tuesday that Gonzalez entered the double front doors — an unlocked glass storm door and an ornamental wood door, that was in the process of being locked by hand. Pierson later said automatic locks have now been installed.
"As Mr. Gonzalez entered the door, he knocked back the officer that was standing at the doorway," she said Tuesday. "The officer then engaged Mr. Gonzalez. They crossed the East Entrance Hall together. Made the left turn down the cross hall. They stepped momentarily into the East Room. Another officer rendered aid, And he was placed on the ground on the carpet and handcuffed on the cross wall — hall — just outside of the Green Room."
The agent who stopped Gonzalez had just finished his shift and happened to be walking through the White House when the commotion started, according to an account first reported by the Washington Post .
The Secret Service is still investigating the incident, and Pierson provided more details to lawmakers in a private briefing after the hearing.
According to the police report, Gonzalez was searched and a black folding knife with a three and one-half inch serrated blade was discovered in his right front pants pocket. He then gave oral consent to search his vehicle, which was located on Constitution Avenue Northwest. The vehicle contained hundreds of rounds of ammunition, both in boxes and in magazines, two hatchets and a machete.
Gonzalez is scheduled to appear on Oct. 1, before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
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