Man accused of shooting at White House charged in 17-count indictment

Story highlights

  • A grand jury returns an indictment against Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez
  • The charges include attempting to assassinate the president
  • Witnesses say Ortega-Hernandez called Obama "the devil," a court document says
An Idaho man accused of firing a rifle at the White House faces 17 charges, including attempting to assassinate the president, after being formally indicted by a grand jury in Washington on Tuesday.
The indictment against Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez includes new charges such as assaulting officers of the U.S. government with a deadly weapon, injury to U.S. property, namely the White House, use of a firearm during a crime of violence and assault with a dangerous weapon.
Ortega-Hernandez allegedly fired a rifle at the White House around 9 p.m. on November 11 and then fled. No one was injured and President Barack Obama was out of town.
The indictment says Ortega-Hernandez "did forcibly assault, intimidate, and interfere" with three Secret Service employees by firing at the White House. Several rounds hit the exterior of the White House near the second story residence area for the first family.
Ortega-Hernandez was arrested five days later in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and has been jailed ever since. Last month a federal judge ruled the 21-year-old suspect is competent to stand trial.
David Bos, a federal public defender representing Ortega-Hernandez, said he had not had a chance to go through the 17-count indictment listing the new charges. But he told CNN his client would enter a not-guilty plea when an arraignment is scheduled.
In a criminal complaint issued November 17, prosecutors quoted unnamed witnesses who know Ortega-Hernandez as saying he viewed Obama as "the devil" or the "anti-Christ" and that he was convinced "the federal government is conspiring against him."
In a December 15 document arguing Ortega-Hernandez should not be released on bail, prosecutors said he "was deadly serious about eliminating the president and took many substantial steps toward achieving his end," including buying a rifle in March and making a 2,000-mile drive from Idaho to the East Coast in October.
The government also said that after he was arrested, Ortega-Hernandez claimed he had been car-jacked by a man with a gun on the day of the White House assault and that whoever took his car must have fired the shots at the White House as well. He also claimed to have never owned a gun.
Prosecutors said preliminary ballistics evidence had matched the bullets found at the White House to a Romanian-made rifle found in a car Ortega-Hernandez abandoned not far from the scene of the shooting. The document also said Ortega-Hernandez' fingerprints were found on some ammunition magazines left in the vehicle.
No arraignment date has been set for Ortega-Hernandez. The charges he faces carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.