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White House shooting suspect charged with attempted assassination

November 18, 2011
By

The man accused of firing two shots at the White House last week has been charged with attempting to assassinate President Barack Obama or his staff.

Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, of  Idaho Falls, Idaho, was arrested Wednesday afternoon at a hotel near Indiana, Pa., after a desk clerk recognized his picture and immediately called authorities. At his first appearance in court in Pennsylvania, Ortega sat quietly, his hands free but his feet shackled. He said only, “Yes, ma’am” when he was asked if he understood that he would be going back to Washington to face the charge.

Ortega will remain in federal custody at least until a magistrate in Washington can determine if he should remain jailed until his trial on the charge, which carries up to life in prison.

Ortega sat quietly as the hearing began, his hands free but his feet shackled. The 21-year-old said only, “Yes, ma’am” when he was asked if he understood that he would be going back to Washington to face the charge.

Authorities said a man clad in black who was obsessed with Obama pulled his car within view of the White House on Friday night and fired shots from an assault rifle, cracking a window of the first family’s living quarters while the president was away.

Soon after, U.S. Park Police found an abandoned vehicle, with an assault rifle inside it, near a bridge leading out of the nation’s capital to Virginia. The car led investigators to Ortega.

The FBI took custody of Ortega’s car Thursday afternoon to continue the process of reviewing evidence, said Lindsay Godwin, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Washington field office.

Maria Hernandez, Ortega’s mother, said that her son has no history of mental illness. “He has different ideas than other people, just like everyone, but he was perfectly fine the last time I saw him,” Hernandez said. “He might be saying weird stuff that sounds crazy, but that doesn’t mean (he) is crazy. He might be confused and scared,” she added.

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