42-year-old Omar J. Gonzalez of Copperas Cove, Texas served in the U.S. army from 1997 to 2003, at which point he was discharged. Gonzales rejoined the army in 2005, serving until 2012 when he retired due to disability.
The Secret Service accuse the Iraqi war veteran of scaling the perimeter fence surrounding the White House, running across the lawn, and entering the presidential suite. Neither President Obama nor his family were inside the White House at the time of the incident.
When agents searched Gonzalez, they discovered a folding knife with a 3″ serrated blade stuffed inside his pocket. Gonzalez is being charged with unlawful entry to a restricted building while possessing a deadly or dangerous weapon.
According to an affidavit, Gonzalez told the Secret Service agents that he scaled the fence so he could speak with President Obama about the state of the nation. He said he “feared that the atmosphere was collapsing,” and he needed more information to convey the message to the people.
The Secret Service has increased security in and around the White House in the wake of this recent breach. There’s some criticism over whether or not agents should have shot Gonzalez before he entered the presidential suite. Agents say they chose not to fire because Gonzalez didn’t appear to be carrying a gun.
Jerry S. Murphy, Gonzalez’s former stepson, told CNN reporters that Gonzalez was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and paranoia by his psychiatrist, for which he was taking prescription medication. It’s unknown if Gonzalez was taking this medication at the time of the incident. Murphy also told reporters that Gonzalez’s mental condition gradually deteriorated after each deployment, causing problems in his marriage. Gonzalez divorced his wife of eight years in 2012.
“We see this a lot. It happens frequently in other places where there are static security forces, and it’s just a matter of the Secret Service upping their game to make sure that they can maintain that every detail matters. A door locked, a quick reaction when somebody hits the fence and over the gate,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “I think they are going to have to reinstate some of these ongoing checks about what activities they participate in.”