PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - A 21-year-old man who called President Barack Obama the “devil” and “anti-Christ” was charged on Thursday with trying to assassinate the U.S. leader by opening fire on the White House with an assault rifle.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, were not in Washington at the time of the shooting Friday night and no one was hurt.
Oscar Ortega-Hernandez of Idaho Falls, Idaho, appeared before a federal magistrate judge in Pittsburgh, who ordered him transferred to Washington. He was arrested on Wednesday at a hotel near Indiana, Pennsylvania.
No one was hurt in the shooting on Friday night. The Secret Service said one bullet broke a White House window but was stopped by protective ballistic glass, and the other round struck the exterior of the building.
A witness reported seeing the occupant of a dark car shooting at the White House and speed away, while another witness reported hearing eight “popping” noises from a dark car that sped away, according to court papers.
A Honda Accord with Idaho license plates was found abandoned nearby with a semi-automatic assault rifle with a large scope as well as three loaded magazines of ammunition, nine spent shell casings, an aluminum baseball bat and brass knuckles, according to court papers.
A witness reported seeing the car’s driver flee on foot. The Honda was registered to Ortega-Hernandez, the court papers said.
FBI investigators who scoured the White House grounds on Wednesday found several bullet impacts on the south side of the executive mansion on the second story or above. The president’s family quarters are on those upper floors.
Ortega-Hernandez was charged with attempted assassination of the president, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kitchen said at the court hearing.
If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.
He appeared in court wearing a white jumpsuit and said nothing except “yes, ma’am,” when asked by Judge Cynthia Eddy if he understood the charges against him.
A witness interviewed in Idaho who “knows Ortega-Hernandez well” said he had become increasingly agitated against the government, according to a FBI affidavit.
The witness told authorities that Ortega-Hernandez wanted to “hurt” Obama and referred to him as “the anti-Christ,” according to the affidavit. Another witness interviewed in Idaho told authorities that Ortega-Hernandez “was very specific that President Obama was the problem with the government” and that he was “the devil,” according to the court papers.
The witness said Ortega-Hernandez had been “preparing for something,” the affidavit said.
Earlier on November 11, police in Arlington, Virginia had responded to a report of a suspicious person who identified himself as Ortega-Hernandez, the affidavit also said.
Arlington police took photos of him and released him after he declined to let them search his car, which was nearby, it said.
Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington, editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Doina Chiacu