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White House shooting suspect faces attempted assassination charge

From Carol Cratty, CNN
updated 1:53 PM EST, Fri December 2, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A complaint document says the suspect considered Obama the "anti-Christ"
  • NEW: Witnesses saw shots fired from a car toward the White House complex
  • Ortega-Hernandez will be charged with attempted assassination
  • The suspect was arrested Wednesday at a Pennsylvania hotel

Pittsburgh (CNN) -- An Idaho man who acquaintances say called President Barack Obama "the anti-Christ" was charged Thursday with trying to assassinate him in a shooting incident outside the White House, federal authorities said.

Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, 21, is accused of firing shots at the White House on Friday, including some that hit the building near the residence area where Obama and his family live, according to a complaint document made public after the suspect's initial court hearing Thursday.

One witness described to investigators hearing about "eight sounds of popping noise" and seeing "puffs of air" from a car on Constitution Avenue near the White House, an FBI agent's sworn statement said.

Read the complaint against Ortega-Hernandez (PDF)

One bullet hit a window and was stopped by bulletproof glass, and another was found on the White House exterior, the Secret Service said.

Investigators found a semi-automatic rifle, several boxes of ammunition and nine spent shell casings in a car owned by Ortega-Hernandez that was parked several blocks away on the lawn of the National Institute of Peace, the agent's affidavit said.

White House shooter suspect in custody
White House shooting suspect charged

Ortega-Hernandez was charged with attempted assassination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jimmy Kitchen said Thursday at the suspect's initial court hearing in Pittsburgh. The charge carries a possible maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.

At the brief hearing, Ortega-Hernandez spoke once, answering "yes, ma'am" when Magistrate Cynthia Eddy asked if he understood what his federal defender had said on his behalf.

Eddy agreed with a prosecution request for Ortega-Hernandez to remain in custody. Ortega-Hernandez agreed to be extradited to the District of Columbia, and the federal defender, Christopher Brown, said the defendant reserved his right for a detention and preliminary hearing after the transfer.

The government agreed not to formally indict Ortega-Hernandez until after his transfer, Brown said. It was not immediately clear when the transfer would occur, but it was expected in coming days.

With long, tangled hair and a beard, Ortega-Hernandez wore a white jumpsuit and was handcuffed with legs chained when entering the courtroom guarded by U.S. marshals.

Guards removed the handcuffs for the hearing, but the leg chains remained on as he sat down.

The complaint document said that on the night of November 11, two witnesses saw shots fired toward the White House through the window of a car on Constitution Avenue. The car's Idaho plates registered to Ortega-Hernandez.

Another witness saw a man run away from the same vehicle a few blocks away, the complaint document said. From the vehicle, police recovered a rifle of the same caliber as recovered shells from the White House grounds, it said.

A law enforcement official told CNN on Thursday that a trace of the weapon did not show Ortega-Hernandez as the purchaser.

The official, who was not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation, provided no further information on the weapon's purchase.

According to three acquaintances cited in the complaint document, Ortega-Hernandez considered Obama the cause of his problems and referred to him at times as the "anti-Christ" and the devil.

One witness -- identified only as "W-4" -- told investigators that Ortega-Hernandez "has increasingly become more agitated against the federal government, and is convinced that the federal government is conspiring against him," the FBI agent's affidavit said.

He "wanted to 'hurt' President Obama and referred to him as 'the anti-Christ,'" the witness said.

Another witness -- identified as "W-6" -- also quoted Ortega-Hernandez calling Obama "the anti-Christ." This witness told agents Ortega-Hernandez told him he "needed to kill him."

A third witness, known as "W-7," told investigators Ortega-Hernandez owned an "AK-47 like gun." His "opinions and comments regarding the government and President Obama have gotten worse" over the past year, the witness told agents.

"W-7 stated that Ortega-Hernandez believed President Obama is 'the devil,' and that Ortega-Hernandez 'will not stop until it's done.'" the affidavit said. "W-7 also reported that Ortega-Hernandez stated President Obama 'needed to be taken care of.'"

Lt. Brad Shields of the Pennsylvania State Police said Ortega-Hernandez was arrested Wednesday in western Pennsylvania under a U.S. Park Police warrant issued Sunday in Washington "based on a shooting that occurred at the White House on November 11."

According to Shields, a tip came in Wednesday that the man sought by federal authorities in the Washington shooting was at a Hampton Inn in the town of Indiana, Pennsylvania.

Ortega-Hernandez had stayed at the hotel with another person for a few days before the Friday shooting incident, Shields said.

When Ortega-Hernandez returned to the hotel on Wednesday, staff members recognized him from a photo provided by authorities and notified police, Shields said.

Ortega-Hernandez was arrested without any resistance in the hotel lobby, asking why he was being detained, Shields said. A bag of his was checked by sniffer dogs, but no weapons were found, according to Shields.

The suspect apparently had returned to the hotel to locate what Shields called "his friend," and Shields said the suspect's companion was not from the area. He provided no further details of the companion's identity or whereabouts.

In Idaho Falls, Idaho, police spokeswoman Joelyn Hansen said the man -- identified there as Oscar Ramiro Ortega -- was reported missing October 31. Hansen said Ortega is the same man who the Secret Service is calling Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez.

The bullets were found on the south side of the White House, a Secret Service official not authorized to speak on the record told CNN.

"A round was stopped by ballistic glass behind the historic exterior glass," a Secret Service statement said. "One additional round has been found on the exterior of the White House. This damage has not been conclusively connected to Friday's incident, and an assessment of the exterior of the White House is ongoing,".

On Friday about 9 p.m., U.S. Park Police and the Secret Service investigated after hearing shots fired about 700 to 800 yards from the White House, the Secret Service statement said.

Within five minutes, officers located a vehicle in the 2300 block of Constitution Avenue, according to the statement.

The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Metropolitan Police Department all took part in the search for Ortega-Hernandez, officials said.

CNN's Tom Cohen and Terry Frieden contributed to this report.

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