Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Federal authorities are investigating whether a man being held in Pennsylvania intentionally fired a semi-automatic rifle at the White House last week.
The suspect, identified by the Secret Service as Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, 21, is scheduled to appear in a federal court in Pittsburgh at 2 p.m. local time today, according to Margaret Philbin, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
Information uncovered by authorities led them to believe that Ortega-Hernandez was interested in the White House and the president, according to a federal law enforcement official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss details of the case publicly.
Officials wouldn’t confirm a Washington Post report that the suspect had expressed hatred for President Barack Obama and Washington.
Ortega-Hernandez was arrested yesterday by Pennsylvania State Police at a hotel near Indiana, Pennsylvania, on a warrant issued in Washington. Authorities were tipped off after someone recognized Ortega-Hernandez from a picture released by police.
A task force of federal and local law enforcement agencies had been searching for the gunman who fired shots that hit the White House at about 9 p.m. local time on Nov. 11. The shots were fired from a street less than 800 yards south of the executive mansion, Secret Service spokesman Edwin M. Donovan said.
Two bullets were discovered Nov. 15 on White House grounds, one of which hit ballistic glass in a window, Donovan said in an e-mailed statement.
Obama had already departed for a nine-day trip to Hawaii and Asia at the time of the shooting. The White Houser press office declined to comment and referred all questions to the Secret Service.
A spokeswoman for the FBI Washington Field Office, Lindsay Godwin, said today that an agency evidence team is processing the scene and looking for anything in the vicinity of where the shots were fired and trying to determine the trajectory.
Agents from the Pittsburgh field offices of the FBI and Secret Service jointly conducted the initial interview of Ortega-Hernandez yesterday, Godwin said.
Donovan said in a Nov. 15 statement that the damage has “not been conclusively connected” to a report of shots fired last week on Constitution Avenue. Police began looking for Ortega-Hernandez after discovering evidence in a car found abandoned a few blocks away from the White House shortly after the gunfire was reported. The Washington Post reported the rifle and shell casings were discovered in the vehicle.
Police in the Washington suburb of Arlington, Virginia, stopped Ortega earlier on Nov. 11, the day of the shooting, based on a report of suspicious activity, according to a U.S. law enforcement official. The Arlington officers had no basis to detain Ortega at the time and released him after photographing him, the official said.
--With assistance from Jeff Bliss in Washington. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Mark McQuillan.
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