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Fence-jumper makes it into White House
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WASHINGTON (AP) — A man jumped over the fence of the White House on Friday and made it through the front door before officers managed to apprehend him, the Secret Service said. President Barack Obama had departed the White House just minutes earlier.
The rare security breach was likely to renew intense scrutiny of the Secret Service, an agency whose storied history has been marred in recent years by multiple allegations of misconduct by officers. It was unclear whether a fence-jumper has ever made it into the White House before.
After scaling the fence on the north side of the White House, the intruder darted toward the presidential residence, ignoring commands from officers to stop, said Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan. He was ultimately apprehended just inside the North Portico doors — the grand, columned entrance that looks out over Pennsylvania Avenue.
Donovan said the man appeared to be unarmed to officers who spotted him climbing the fence, and a search of the suspect turned up no weapons. The suspect was transported to a nearby hospital for examination after complaining of chest pain. He was charged with unlawful entry into the White House complex.
The Secret Service identified the suspect as Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, of Copperas Cove, Texas. Attempts to reach Gonzales or his relatives by phone Friday evening were unsuccessful.
The incident prompted a rare evacuation of much of the White House. Inside the West Wing, White House staffers and Associated Press journalists were rushed into the basement and out a side exit to a nearby street by Secret Service agents — some with their weapons drawn.
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 suspect, in jeans and a dark shirt, sprinting across the lawn as Secret Service agents shouted at nearby pedestrians to clear the area.
“This situation was a little different than other incidents we have at the White House,” Donovan said. “There will be a thorough investigation into the incident.”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who chairs the House Oversight Committee’s subpanel on national security, said it was “totally unacceptable” that the fence-jumper made it inside the White House. Chaffetz said he’s been investigating the Secret Service for more than a year and that there have been many security breaches that were never publicly reported.