Video: Man held in firing of shots at White House

  1. Transcript of: Man held in firing of shots at White House

    MATT LAUER, co-host: The man suspected of firing shots at the White House is now in custody and due in federal court today. This as agents try to figure out exactly how many rounds hit the building. NBC 's justice correspondent Pete Williams has the latest on this. Hi, Pete.

    PETE WILLIAMS reporting: Matt, good morning. This is where investigators believe the shots came from, Constitution Avenue , at least a third of a mile from the White House and fired they believe by the driver of a moving car. Federal agents say it's surprising any of those rounds actually hit their apparent target. The Secret Service says at least two rounds did hit the White House . One damaged the glass in a window on the Truman balcony, but was stopped by a bullet resistant layer beneath. Another hit the building elsewhere. Agents are checking to see if other pockmarks they're discovered could mean that even more rounds hit. The shots apparently came from a distance of about eight football fields away, south of the White House . That's about the limit of the range of the assault rifle federal agents believe was used in the shooting. The man suspected of firing the shots, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez , was arrested Wednesday about 200 miles away at a Pennsylvania motel where investigators discovered he had stayed earlier. The Secret Service told motel employees he might return.

    Lieutenant BRAD SHIELDS (Pennsylvania State Police): And alerted them to the fact that this subject had been there in the past and may come back in the future and that if he did appear that they were to notify local law enforcement and the Secret Service .

    WILLIAMS: Ortega , who's 21, has a long record of arrests for minor crimes in

    three states: Idaho , where he's from, Utah , and Texas . His father told NBC Spanish language network Telemundo that Ortega had recently become obsessed with the date 11/11/11, the day of last Friday's shooting, and worried that's when the world would end. Investigators are also checking into reports that Ortega made threatening and bizarre comments about President Obama . The president was not in the White House last Friday night when the shots rang out around 9:00. The car they came from was later found abandoned with an assault rifle in it believed to be the weapon that fired the shots. Police say evidence in the car linked it to Ortega and a manhunt was on. So far Ortega has been charged only with carrying a dangerous weapon but prosecutors are considering the much more serious charge of attempted

    assassination. Matt: All right, Pete Williams in Washington this morning. Pete , thank you very much . It's 13 after the hour. Here's Ann.

    LAUER:

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 11/17/2011 6:04:28 AM ET 2011-11-17T11:04:28

A man who fired shots at the White House from an assault rifle on Nov. 11 was obsessed with President Barack Obama and the date 11/11/11, investigators and the man's father said.

U.S. Secret Service agents caught up with Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez in Pennsylvania on Wednesday after a four-day search.

Police arrested the 21-year-old Idaho man at a hotel after a desk clerk recognized his picture.

Ortega was scheduled to make his first appearance at 2 p.m. Thursday in federal court in Pittsburgh and many questions remained about his motive and background.

Authorities are investigating the man's mental health and say there are indications he believed attacking the White House was part of a personal mission from God, according to two different law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press. There are also indications the man had become obsessed with Obama.

“He hates the president, he hates Washington, he hates society,” one official told The Washington Post.

The man's father, Jose, who lives in Idaho Falls, Idaho, told NBC's Telemundo Spanish News Network that his son was obsessed with the date 11/11/11. Ortega believed the world might end on that day, the father said.

Desk clerk stalls suspect
Ortega was arrested Wednesday afternoon without putting up resistance at a hotel near Indiana, Pa., about 55 miles east of Pittsburgh, the Secret Service said. He was in Pennsylvania State Police custody.

State troopers said Ortega had visited the hotel in recent days, and investigators believed he was back in the area Wednesday. The Secret Service passed out photographs and a desk clerk recognized his picture and stalled him while notifying police.

Ortega was reported missing Oct. 31 by his family. A message left for Ortega's mother Wednesday at an Idaho Falls restaurant where she works was not returned. Phone listings for family members in the city were disconnected.

Ortega has an arrest record in three states but has not been linked to any radical organizations, U.S. Park Police have said.

A report in the Idaho Statesman said Ortega has racked up 18 citations in Idaho related to theft, drug paraphernalia possession, domestic abuse, underage drinking, numerous driving violations and, most recently, failure to affix a tag to his dog’s collar, according to the state of Idaho’s online citation database.

Haraz N. Ghanbari  /  AP
Law enforcement officers photograph a window at the White House in Washington, Wednesday. AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

The shots were fired at the building Friday night about 9:30 p.m. Agents discovered Tuesday that one of the two bullets hit the exterior and a second cracked a window on the second-floor residential level, just behind the rounded portico visible from the south side of the White House.

Protective glass
That bullet was stopped by protective ballistic glass. The window that was hit is in front of the so-called Yellow Oval Room, which is in the middle of the family's living quarters.

An official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said Ortega used a knockoff of an AK-47. Late Wednesday, however, authorities had not conclusively linked his gun to the rounds found at the White House.

Obama and his wife Michelle were on a trip to California and Hawaii at the time of the shooting.

The president has since traveled on to Australia on a nine-day Asia-Pacific tour. The Obamas were in California without daughters Malia and Sasha, but the White House had no immediate comment on the shooting or who may have been home at the time.

Investigators believe Ortega fired the rifle from his vehicle, according to an official with knowledge of the investigation.

Soon after, U.S. Park Police found an abandoned vehicle, the assault rifle inside it, near a bridge leading out of the nation's capital to Virginia. The car led investigators to Ortega, and they obtained a warrant for his arrest Sunday, officials said.

This is not the first time the White House has come under attack.

In the last 40 years, the landmark has faced threats ranging from a stolen helicopter that landed on the grounds in 1974 to a man who wielded a sawed-off shotgun on a sidewalk outside in 1984.

In 1994 alone, there were five threats including a plane crash on the lawn and a suspected drive-by shooting. Another man fired at least 29 rounds from a semiautomatic weapon, with 11 striking the White House.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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