White House Shooting Suspect Charged With Attempted Assassination

Charged with attempted assassination

Thursday, Nov 17, 2011  |  Updated 9:47 PM EDT
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The suspect in Friday's shooting at the White House appeared in court in Pittsburgh, Pa., and waived extradition.

Jackie Bensen

The suspect in Friday's shooting at the White House appeared in court in Pittsburgh, Pa., and waived extradition.

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Witnesses Describe WH Shooting Suspect Arrest

NBC Washington's Jackie Bensen spoke with witnesses who say it looked like an armed invasion when authorities raided the Pennsylvania hotel where the suspect was staying.
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The man accused of firing shots at the White House has been charged with attempting to assassinate President Barack Obama.

Oscar Ortega-Hernandez, 21, made his first court appearance Thursday in Pittsburgh.  The federal public defender's office in Pittsburgh represented him during the initial hearing.

Ortega's feet were shackled during the hearing, but his hands were free.  He waived his right to an extradition hearing, and will be flown to Washington, D.C., to face trial on the charge.

When asked by a judge whether he understood that he was going back to Washington to face the charge, Ortega replied only, "Yes, ma'am."

The assassination charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Law enforcement sources told the Associated Press earlier Thursday that Ortega would undergo a mental evaluation.

The father of Ortega, arrested on Wednesday at a western Pennsylvania hotel, told Telemundo his son was obsessed with the date 11/11/11, believing the world would end that day.

The Washington Post reports a police source said Ortega harbored a hatred toward President Barack Obama and society in general.

According to court documents, a person in Idaho who knows Ortega well told Park Police and the Secret Service that Ortega believed the government was conspiring against him and said he wanted to hurt the president, who he call "the anti-Christ." Another person also said Ortega called Obama "the anti-Christ" and said he "needed to kill him." That witness said a gun Ortega kept in his room was gone after Ortega left Idaho.

A person who knew Ortega for six years also said Ortega had an "AK-47-like gun." Ortega told that acquaintance that Obama was the problem and that Ortega would not "stop until it's done" and Obama "needed to be taken care of."

So far, officials have not made a public announcement on the possible motive for the shooting on Friday evening that sparked a multi-agency investigation involving the FBI, the Secret Service, and Park Police.

Oscar Ortega was arrested at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in an operation by Pennsylvania State Police that witnesses said looked like an "armed invasion."

A man who was on the phone outside the Hampton Inn near Indiana, Pa., said he watched as law enforcement stormed the hotel.  "Five troopers rolled up and took out all their guns and rifles and big ammo," the witness told News4's Jackie Bensen. "And then stormed in the front door and then next thing I saw, they told me to run away."

A spokesperson for Pennsylvania State Police said that Ortega asked why he was being arrested, but did not make any other statement.

Investigators have not yet conclusively linked the shooting on Constitution Avenue and 16th Street on Friday to the bullets found on White House grounds Tuesday.  One of the bullets was found embedded in ballistic glass behind a historic exterior window. Several bullet impact points were found, and several bullets and fragments were collected.

A witness told authorities a dark-colored sedan stopped on Constitution Avenue after 9 p.m. Friday and shots were fired "directed at the Ellipse behind the South Lawn of the White House" out the passenger-side window. The witness said the sedan then accelerated.

Minutes later, authorities found an abandoned black 1998 Honda Accord near the ramp to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.

Investigators are still running tests to determine whether the rounds were fired by an assault rifle found in the abandoned car, which Ortega left Idaho with last month, according to authorities in Idaho. Officials have said if the shots were fired from Constitution Avenue, it would have been a low-percentage shot.  The round, believed to have been fired from the window of a moving vehicle, would have traveled 800 yards.

NBC News reports the rifle found in the car is a Romarm Cugir Wasr 10, an AK-47-style weapon manufactured in Romania.  The gun was legally purchased in Idaho in 2010, although not by Ortega.

Law enforcement searched for Ortega in the Occupy DC camp in McPherson Square before catching up with him in Pennsylvania.  Family members in Idaho reported him missing on Halloween.  On the day of the shooting, Arlington police detained Ortega and photographed him after a resident said he was acting suspicious, but he was released.

In the last shooting at the White House, a Colorado man sprayed the mansion with at least 27 semiautomatic rifle bullets from Pennsylvania Avenue in an attempt to assassinate President Bill Clinton in October 1994. Bystanders subdued him, and no one was injured. Francisco Martin Duran was later convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison for that shooting.

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