WASHINGTON – An Iraq war veteran who was arrested after jumping a White House fence suffers from PTSD, his former stepson told CNN Sunday.
Omar Gonzalez hopped the north fence Friday and sprinted just past the north portico White House doors when he was stopped, Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said. The veteran carried in his pants pocket a Spyderco VG-10 folding knife with a 3-and-a-half inch serrated blade, according to an affidavit.
A Secret Service officer said he yelled at the intruder to stop. Gonzalez told a Secret Service agent “that he was concerned that the atmosphere was collapsing and needed to get the information to the President of the United States so that he could get the word out to the people,” according to the affidavit.
Gonzalez is accused of unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon, officials said. As of Saturday, Gonzalez was in custody and set to appear in court Monday.
President Barack Obama and his family were not at home at the time.
On Sunday, Gonzalez’s former stepson Jerry S. Murphy told CNN that Gonzalez’s eight-year marriage to his mother ended two years ago — information that marriage records supports. Murphy said he last spoke to Gonzalez around the time of the split but knows that Gonzalez was seeing a therapist on base at Fort Hood in Texas.
Gonzalez was diagnosed with PTSD and paranoia, and his base psychiatrist had prescribed the veteran medication for both conditions, Murphy said.
Gonzalez did three tours in Iraq and is a “great, great guy,” his ex-stepson said.
Murphy views Gonzalez as a “hero” who took great pride in serving his country.
But after each deployment, Gonzalez’s mental state seemed to deteriorate, Murphy said.
The veteran acted constantly “alert.”
Murphy feels that Gonzalez should have been given more help and doesn’t think Gonzalez had intentions of hurting anyone at the White House.
The knife that was found in Gonzalez’s pocket was a weapon the veteran routinely carried, Murphy said.
The fence jumping incident was not the only security breach at the White House over the weekend.
In a second incident Saturday, Kevin Carr of Shamong, New Jersey, was arrested after driving up to a security barrier and trying to enter the White House by walking to it.
Carr was arrested and charged with unlawful entry, Leary told CNN. Records show Carr was born in 1995, making him around 19.
According to Leary, the incident happened at the entrance at 15th and E streets, where the driver did not stop when the Secret Service ordered him to do so.
The man’s car did not hit the barriers at the entrance, and he then got out of his vehicle. Carr was arrested after he refused to leave, Leary said.
The Obamas were not at home at the time of the second incident either.
Minutes before Gonzalez jumped the fence, the President and his daughters left the South Lawn by helicopter. It is not clear where first lady Michelle Obama was, but officials tell CNN that the family was staying at Camp David, Maryland, for the weekend.
The Secret Service said Gonzalez should have been stopped faster and are investigating personnel and reviewing security policies and procedures.
The Secret Service is planning to beef up its presence and enhance its surveillance measures around the White House on Monday following Friday’s security breach, a federal law enforcement official said.
Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, suggested that the Secret Service has lapsed in the testing and audits that would have kept security up to standard.
“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,” Rogers said on CBS on Sunday morning. “I think they are going to have to reinstate some of these ongoing checks about what activities they participate in.”
Rep. Peter King, R-New York, demanded a full investigation and called for a congressional hearing to ensure that changes are made.
“There can be a lot of conspiracies against a president. A lot of very complex assassination plots,” King said on Fox News. “This is the most basic, the most simple type of procedure and how anyone, especially in these days of ISIS, and we’re concerned about terrorist attacks, someone could actually get into the White House without being stopped is inexcusable.”
In a statement from White House on Saturday night, spokesperson Frank Benenati said the President expressed his support for the Secret Service.
“The President has full confidence in the Secret Service and is grateful to the men and women who day in and day out protect himself, his family and the White House,” the statement read. “The Secret Service is in the process of conducting a thorough review of the event on Friday evening, and we are certain it will be done with the same professionalism and commitment to duty that we and the American people expect from the USSS.”