WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, were angry at the Secret Service for the way it handled a 2011 incident in which a gunman fired shots that hit the White House while one of their daughters was at home, The Washington Post reported on Saturday night.
The Post report comes eight days after a Texas man armed with a knife jumped the White House fence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and managed to make his way through the front door before being stopped. The director of the Secret Service has ordered an internal review of its security procedures after the intrusion, and the new revelation may fuel additional questions about the agency’s handling of presidential security.
Barack Obama expressed confidence in the Secret Service last week. “The Secret Service does a great job,” he said. “I’m grateful for all the sacrifices they make on my behalf and on my family’s behalf.” Spokesmen for the White House and the Secret Service declined to comment on the Post report on Saturday night.
In the 2011 security breach, a Secret Service supervisor thought the sharp cracks that rang out that night were backfire from a nearby construction site and ordered officers guarding the executive mansion to “stand down,” even though seven bullets had hit the building, The Post reported. “No shots have been fired,” the supervisor called out over the radio.
The authorities later concluded that bullets had indeed been fired by a man in a car along Constitution Avenue outside the White House perimeter, but even then assumed at first that the White House was not necessarily the target. Only four days later, when a housekeeper found broken glass on the Truman Balcony, did anyone realize the White House had actually been struck. One bullet had smashed the historic exterior glass on the second floor, but was stopped by ballistic glass inside.
While the basic details of the shooting on Nov. 11, 2011, have been publicly known, The Post reported that the president and first lady were furious not only about the breakdowns on the night of the shooting, but also about how long it took them to be notified. They were both away at the time but their younger daughter, Sasha, and Michelle Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, were home at the time, The Post said. Their other daughter, Malia, arrived home shortly afterward.
Michelle Obama returned to the White House later and was angered to learn that bullets had actually hit the White House from an usher who assumed she had already been told. When the president returned a few days after that, aides told The Post that he was also furious.
Mark J. Sullivan, then the director of the Secret Service, was summoned to a meeting in which the first lady raised her voice loudly enough that she could be heard through a closed door, the newspaper said.
The gunman, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, 21, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, had told a friend that the president was “the Antichrist” and that he “needed to kill him,” according to papers later filed in court. He was arrested and charged with attempted assassination; he pleaded guilty to lesser firearms and property damage charges related to terrorism, and was sentenced in April to 25 years in prison.
In the latest episode, Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, of Copperas Cove, Texas, jumped the black iron fence that surrounds the White House around 7:20 p.m. on Sept. 19, and ran straight to the North Portico door, the grand entrance that is flanked by white marble columns and faces Pennsylvania Avenue. He made it through the unlocked doors and was tackled immediately, Secret Service officials said.
Gonzalez was carrying a folding knife with a 3 1/2-inch serrated blade, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
As in 2011, Barack Obama and his family were not home. No shots were fired, and the White House guard dogs were not let loose to stop Gonzalez, the officials said.