The man accused of shooting at the White House with an assault rifle will appear Thursday afternoon in federal court in Pennsylvania for an extradition hearing, after which he is expected to be moved to Washington, D.C., to face charges of carrying a dangerous weapon.
Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez was arrested Wednesday by Pennsylvania State Police acting on a tip from the Secret Service. There are indications that Mr. Ortega-Hernandez felt he was part of a “personal mission from God,” the Associated Press reported, quoting investigative authorities. The AP also said there are signs the alleged shooter was obsessed with President Obama. The president and Mrs. Obama were on a trip outside Washington at the time of the shooting Friday night.
Many questions about the incident remain, and federal officials continue to investigate. Shots were fired at the White House at about 9:30 p.m. Friday, from a car driving on Constitution Avenue, behind the executive mansion’s south lawn. Ortega-Hernandez’s car was found several blocks from the area where the shots were fired, and an assault-style weapon was found inside his vehicle. Authorities have not conclusively linked that weapon to rounds found at the White House.
The Secret Service issued a statement saying “an assessment of the exterior of the White House is ongoing.” On Tuesday, the Secret Service discovered that two bullets had hit the historic building. One round cracked a window outside the Yellow Oval Room, part of the first family’s quarters on the mansion’s second floor. The round was stopped by ballistic glass mounted inside the window, which overlooks the Truman Balcony.
The Secret Service found a second round “on the exterior of the White House,” the agency said in a statement.
A local news radio station, WTOP, cited a Federal Bureau of Investigation official as saying that officials have set up a joint task force to investigate the shooting. The Secret Service, the US Park Police, the Washington police department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are also part of the investigation.
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On Wednesday, officials using hydraulic lifts were examining the portion of the White House facing Constitution Avenue. Former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino told the AP that the incident would trigger “an exhaustive review” by the Secret Service of its security procedures.
The AK-47 knockoff allegedly used in Friday’s shooting has an effective range that is largely exhausted by the 750-yard distance between the White House and the intersection of 16th Street and Constitution Avenue. Of greater concern for the Secret Service is what would have happened if a more powerful rifle had been used and if the president had been home.
After the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, then-President Bill Clinton ordered the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue, which runs in front of the White House for security reasons. Constitution Avenue, which runs along the rear of the White House just outside the current security perimeter, is a major thoroughfare for residents and tourists. Closing it would cause major disruption.
Last Friday’s incident is not the first in which gunfire was directed at the executive mansion. The last known shooting incidents occurred in 1994, when there was a suspected drive-by shooting, and when Francisco Martin Duran fired at least 29 shots at the White House from Pennsylvania Avenu. Mr. Duran was sentenced to 40 years in prison for attempting to assassinate Mr. Clinton.