Police in Pennsylvania have arrested a young man thought to be behind last week’s White House shooting. The suspect allegedly shot at a window in the executive mansion, while President Barack Obama was in California.
Idaho Falls resident Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, 21, has a history of mental instability and is thought to be “obsessed” with the President.
Last Friday, he was seen in the area of the White House. Later, shots were heard in Constitution Avenue, half a mile away, at about 9.30 pm. Two cars were seen speeding down the avenue from the White House. Later, police found an abandoned car near the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge with an assault rifle, allegedly an AK-47 replica, inside. This led them to Ortega.
Outside the President’s residence, security services found two bullets. One of them had struck the ballistic glass of the mansion’s living quarters. The White House website says the damaged window is in front of the Yellow Oval Room, in the middle of the family’s living quarters on the floor that contains the President’s bedroom and Lincoln guest suite.
Ortega was identified by a hotel desk clerk who saw the man’s photos, distributed by the secret service. The suspect was arrested Wednesday afternoon about 55 miles east of Pittsburgh, at a hotel near Indiana. He did not resist arrest, and was brought to Pennsylvania state police custody.
It appears Ortega believed he was on a personal mission from God that may have led him to attack the White House. The man is thought to obsessed with Barack Obama, and with the date of the incident – 11/11/11. Besides having mental health issues, Ortega reportedly has violent tendencies and has faced some 20 charges, including drugs and domestic violence. He has never been associated with any radical organization.
One of the officials involved in the case says Ortega-Hernandez hates the president, Washington and American society, and this was a sufficient reason for the man to open fire.
He is to appear before court in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
The secret service found that Ortega spent several weeks circulating around Washington Mall before the incident. There were suspicions that he had an accomplice in the Occupy DC campground near the White House, but having searched the camp, the secret service acknowledged this trace is cold.
Ortega’s family say the man disappeared from home on October 31. On his ride to Washington he was stopped and questioned by police in the capital’s suburb Arlington as a suspicious person, but at the time police did not have any reason to detain him and merely took his photo.
This is at least the third time in 20 years that Washington’s state buildings have come under attack.
In October 1994, when Bill Clinton was in office, Francisco Martin Duran opened fire at the White House with a semi-automatic rifle. He sprayed the mansion with almost 30 bullets, before being subdued by passers-by. He was handed 40 years in prison.
Marine Corps reservist Yonathan Melaku, arrested after a bomb scare at the Pentagon this summer, is thought last year to have carried out a pre-dawn shooting rampage, targeting military buildings, including the Pentagon and National Museum of the Marine Corps. He remains in custody.