By Ryan Parker, Los Angeles Times (MCT)
A multitude of failures occurred in late September when a White House fence-jumper was able to make his way into what is supposed to be one of the most securely guarded buildings in the world, according to a new report.
A man was able to jump the fence and sprint into the White House with a pocketknife on Sept. 19, in part because a canine handler who could have stopped him sooner was on his cell phone taking a personal call without his radio earpiece in, according to a Homeland Security Department report obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
Because of that distraction, it took him 11 seconds to respond, which, according to the report, he did only after he saw another uniformed officer running toward the White House.
Among a flurry of chaotic radio traffic and an obscured view of the north grounds because of construction — the area where the fence was jumped — authorities were either unaware of the situation as it unfolded or lacked the specific information to immediately reach the intruder, according to the report.
Omar Gonzalez, 42, has been charged in the case.
The report says the intruder was able to scale the fence quickly because he chose a section missing an ornamental spike, and he was able to make his way through bushes directly outside the White House North Portico, which authorities chasing him assumed were “too thick to be passable.”
Three different Secret Service members had their guns pointed at the intruder during the chase outdoors, but none fired because they did not see a weapon.
One of those agents was the guard directly outside the North Portico doors, who, like others, was unaware of the situation because of chaotic radio traffic and obscured sight. That agent, according to the report, assumed the doors of the North Portico were locked, so he assumed the intruder was trapped outside.
“By the time his realized the doors were not locked, Gonzalez was inside the White House,” states the report.
The intruder was apprehended about 100 feet inside the White House.
According to federal prosecutors, Gonzalez was carrying a Spyderco VG-10 knife with a 3.5-inch blade, and had hundreds of rounds of ammunition in a car parked nearby, including 12-gauge shotgun shells, 9mm rounds and rounds for a sniper rifle.
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) said in a statement the internal report shed much needed light on the failures of an unacceptable situation.
“While some of these problems can be attributed to a lack of resources, others are systemic and indicative of Secret Service culture,” Thompson said in a statement.” Some of these problems have begun to be addressed, however it is imperative that DHS follows through on these findings and institutes real reforms.”
AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards