A federal prosecutor in Washington said more than 800 rounds of ammunition, a machete and two hatchets were found in the car of the knife-carrying man accused of jumping the fence at the White House last week and dashing into the presidential mansion before being apprehended.
The prosecutor on Monday outlined the government’s case against Omar Gonzalez, the U.S. military veteran accused in Friday’s incident, as he made his first court appearance. Prosecutor David Mudd said the 42-year-old Gonzalez was arrested in July by the Secret Service and found with a sniper rifle and map of the executive mansion as he circled the White House.
Last month, the prosecutor said Gonzalez was stopped, but not arrested as he walked by the White House with a hatchet.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama is “obviously concerned” about the security breach. But Obama told reporters Monday he thinks the Secret Service does a “great job.”
Security at the White House, the residence for U.S. presidents for more than two centuries, was more visible Monday in the aftermath of the unsettling incident.
On a sunny day in the U.S. capital, Secret Service agents patrolled with dogs on the sidewalk outside the White House, while other agents could be seen on the rooftop.
Secret Service chief Julia Pierson ordered the extra patrols and increased surveillance along the black fence surrounding the White House. The presidential security agency is investigating how the intruder was able to scale the fence and run through the mansion’s front door before being stopped.
The White House is one of the most secure buildings in the U.S., but in the wake of the intrusion, the Secret Service is now considering whether to establish new checkpoints to screen tourists even before they approach the residence where U.S. presidents have lived for more than two centuries.
Gonzalez faces charges of unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds while carrying a “deadly or dangerous weapon.” If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.
After being apprehended, Gonzalez, a retired Army sergeant who served in Iraq, told a Secret Service agent that “he was concerned that the atmosphere was collapsing and (he) 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 an affidavit released by prosecutors.
Although President Barack Obama and his family were not at the White House at the time the incident has shaken confidence in the ability of the U.S. Secret Service to protect the president.
The president and his daughters had departed from the South Lawn by helicopter just a few minutes before the incident.
The agency is also considering ways to expand the security zone around the White House to keep tourists and other members of the public farther away, media reports said. Additionally, visitors to the complex, now screened at the entrance gates, could instead be screened blocks away, the New York Times and the Washington Post reported.
Representatives for the Secret Service did not respond to a request for comment on Monday, but the agency said earlier it is reviewing its response.
Fence-jumpers at White House
While fence jumpers are somewhat common at the White House, Friday’s incident was particularly concerning because the intruder was able to penetrate the actual building.
Critics have said they are appalled by the lapse, saying it could give confidence to other potentially more deadly attackers.
In a second incident on Saturday, the Secret Service said Kevin Carr of Shamong, New Jersen was arrested on Saturday for trespassing at the White House.
The man approached the gates on foot first, but returned with his vehicle to another gate after being sent away by security. When he refused to leave he was arrested for unlawful entry.
Just last month, a toddler was able to squeeze through the White House gates.
The Secret Service also has faced scrutiny after a prostitution scandal in 2012 and a 2009 breach involving an uninvited couple at a White House state dinner, although a 2013 Department of Homeland Security report found no evidence of misconduct or inappropriate behavior at the Secret Service.
Some material for this report came from Reuters.