Nightly News | November 17, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: And tonight for the first time in close to two decades a man has been charged with attempting to assassinate the president of the United States in a case that underscores the risk we face every day in a democratic society. He's a homeless man from Idaho , now formally charged with the attempted assassination for firing rifle shots from a car at the White House . At least two rounds actually struck the building. And while the president was not in residence at the time, the full force of the law has now come down on this suspect. NBC 's justice correspondent Pete Williams has more on the charges and the suspect.
PETE WILLIAMS reporting: Appearing today in a federal courthouse in Pennsylvania not far from the motel where he was arrested, Oscar Ortega-Hernandez was formally charged with attempting to assassinate President Obama . In newly filed court documents, the FBI says friends of his from Idaho described Ortega as "increasingly agitated," "convinced the federal government is conspiring against him." Ortega considered President Obama , quote, "the anti-Christ." Ortega said he "needed to kill him," the FBI says. In Idaho , his father told Telemundo , NBC 's Spanish language network, that Ortega was obsessed with November 11 , the date 11/11/11. That's the day the shooting happened. Ortega was saying that "the world will end that day," his father said. Investigators say he fired nine rounds from a Romanian made semiautomatic rifle like this one, a knock-off of the AK-47 purchased in Idaho more than a year ago. The FBI says agents have confirmed several bullet impact points on the White House , declining to give a specific number. And investigators now say Ortega pulled over and stopped his car on Constitution Avenue last Friday night, firing from the passenger window. A former Secret Service agent says even though President Obama was in California the night of the shooting, a charge of attempted assassination is still justified.
Mr. DAN BONGINO (Former Secret Service Agent): All that matters is what's in the mind of the criminal, not if the president was there or not. He very well may have thought that the president was home. And in that case, he, in fact, committed a crime. Whether he was home or not is irrelevant.
P. WILLIAMS: Attempted assassination of a president carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. The last man convicted for it, of shooting at the White House during the Clinton administration , got 40 years. Pete Williams , NBC News , at the Justice Department .