Security breached: Intruder gets into White House
Updated: 2014-09-20 20:11
WASHINGTON - The US Secret Service is coming under intense scrutiny after a man who hopped the White House fence made it all the way through the front door before being apprehended.
President Barack Obama and his daughters had just departed the White House on Friday evening when an intruder scaled the north fence, darted across the lawn and into the presidential residence, where agents nabbed him. The security breach triggered a rare evacuation of much of the White House, with Secret Service officers drawing their guns as they rushed staffers and journalists out a side door.
For the Secret Service, the incident was a devastating episode that prompted fresh questions about the storied agency and its ability to protect the president. The Republican Party's Jason Chaffetz, who chairs the House of Representatives' subpanel on national security oversight, called it "totally unacceptable"but said the incident was just one of a string of security failings on the Secret Service's watch.
"Unfortunately, they are failing to do their job,"Chaffetz said. "These are good men and women, but the Secret Service leadership has a lot of questions to answer."
"Was the door open?"he added incredulously.
The Secret Service said the incident would be carefully reviewed to ensure proper protocols were followed.
The man in jeans and a dark shirt who scaled the fence appeared to be unarmed, but ignored commands from officers to halt, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said. He was tackled just inside the doors of the North Portico, the grand, columned entrance that looks out over Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue. A search of the suspect turned up no weapons.
The Secret Service identified the suspect as Omar J. Gonzalez, a 42-year-old man from Copperas Cove, Texas. He was charged with unlawful entry into the White House complex and transported to a nearby hospital complaining of chest pain. Attempts to reach Gonzalez or his relatives by phone were unsuccessful.
Although it's not uncommon for people to make it over the White House fence, they're typically stopped almost immediately and rarely get very far. Video from the scene showed the intruder sprinting across the lawn as Secret Service agents shouted at nearby pedestrians to clear the area.
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