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Report: Secret Service Botched 2011 White House Shooting Response

A report says the Secret Service told officers to stand down after shots were fired at the White House, and made other missteps in the 2011 incident.
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The Secret Service was pushing back against a report Sunday that it bungled the response to a gunman who opened fire on the White House in 2011, sending bullets crashing into an upstairs residence that could have injured the president’s daughter.

The report, published Sunday in The Washington Post, claims that a Secret Service supervisor ordered agents to "stand down" and said the sound of gunfire appeared to be a construction vehicle backfiring — in actuality, a gunman opened fire and seven bullets struck a White House window, a window frame and the roof on Nov. 11, 2011. The president and first lady were not home at the time, but their daughter, Sasha, was inside.

“It was an uncertain situation,” a Secret Service official told NBC News, noting that the shots were fired from a quarter-mile away from the White House, and that initial witness accounts said they were fired from a black vehicle at another vehicle on Constitution Avenue, not at the White House. The Secret Service immediately notified U.S. Park Police and the Metropolitan Police Department and conducted a protective sweep, and the damage to the third-level window wasn't discovered until four days later, the official said, adding,"There was no attempt by the agency to conceal this information."

But the Washington Post report said officers who were sure bullets had struck the White House were ignored and some feared to speak up to superiors.

President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama were reportedly furious, according to the Post.

The gunman, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, was arrested in Pennsylvania on Nov. 16 and he is serving 25 years in prison.

“The Secret Service implemented both personnel and structural enhancements following the review, and other physical and technical enhancements, including additional surveillance cameras,” the Secret Service official said. The Secret Service has also come under fire recently after a man was able to jump a security fence, race across the lawn and reach the North Portico doors Sept. 19.


— Kristen Welker and Phil Helsel