Intruder arrested after breaching White House grounds

Posted at 3:32 PM, Mar 11, 2017

(CNN) — President Donald Trump said Saturday that the suspect in the White House intrusion Friday night was disturbed, calling it a sad situation and saying he appreciates the work of the Secret Service.

“The service did a fantastic job,” the President said to reporters during a lunch meeting with Cabinet officials at the Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Virginia. “It was a troubled person. It was very sad.”

Asked about confidence in the Secret Service, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer reiterated to reporters the good job it does, and said they have full confidence in the agency.

Trump also told reporters that he was discussing military, economic and health care issues with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and other senior officials.

“The economy is doing very, very well, and in general it’s doing very well,” Trump said. “We had a mess, a mess, and its getting straightened out. Today we’re also talking about health care, which is coming up.”

A man carrying a backpack was arrested Friday night after breaching security at the White House complex and was discovered by a Secret Service officer by the south entrance to the executive residence, officials said.

The incident happened just before midnight while President Donald Trump was at the White House.

The suspect, who had a California driver’s license, told Secret Service officers that he was there to see the president.

“No, I am a friend of the President. I have an appointment,” the suspect said when approached by an officer, according to a report released Saturday by the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department.

Asked how he got there, the suspect told officers: “I jumped the fence.”

The police report, obtained by CNN, offers a more detailed description of the incident than a statement released earlier by the Secret Service.

The report said White House security footage later showed the intruder jumping the face at the northwest courtyard of the Treasury Building, which is adjacent to the White House. He was not detected, however, until approached by a uniformed Secret Service officer.

The White House was placed under security condition “orange,” one of the highest levels of security for the Secret Service, an agency source said.

The suspect was arrested by the Secret Service “without further incident,” the Secret Service said in its statement.

The President was spending the weekend in Washington and was alerted to the incident late Friday night, an administration official said.

A Secret Service source said the backpack carried by the intruder was x-rayed before bomb technicians removed it from the White House grounds for further evaluation.

The backpack was found to be free of any hazardous materials, the Secret Service said in its statement.

A special Secret Service intelligence team interviewed the suspect, who was taken into custody by Washington DC police. The suspect has no criminal history and no previous history involving the Secret Service, that agency said.

A Secret Service emergency response team searched the entire White House grounds with K-9 dogs, including the first lady’s garden which is near the south entrance of the residence. Extensive searches were also conducted on East Executive Avenue and East Wing roadway.

“Nothing of concern to security operations was found,” the Secret Service said in its statement. The agency added that it fully briefed Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on the incident.

The investigation into the security breach continued Saturday as the Secret Service tries to determine how the intruder gained entrance to the highly fortified White House complex without being detected, officials said. It is the first known major security incident at the White House since Trump became president two months ago.

There have been numerous instances of people trespassing on the White House grounds over the last several years.

In one notable instance in 2014, 42-year-old Omar Gonzales, of Copperas Cove, Texas, made it through the north portico doors with a three-and-a-half-inch folding knife in his pants pocket, according to the Secret Service. Gonzalez was apprehended just after making it inside the doors, the Secret Service said. The first family was not at the White House at the time.

In another, the Secret Service apprehended Joseph Caputo, of Stamford, Connecticut, on the North Lawn after he scaled the fence wearing an American flag-like cape while the first family was inside the residence celebrating Thanksgiving in 2015.

Other incidents of trespassing include:

  • A man tossed a backpack over the north fence in April 2016 before jumping over himself, where he was arrested.
  • In April 2015, Jerome R. Hunt, of Hayward, California, climbed the fence on the south side of the White House complex while carrying a suspicious package, later deemed harmless, and was cornered by security dogs.
  • Dominic Adesanya, 23, of Bel Air, Maryland, barely made it onto the lawn in October 2014 before he was subdued as he fought off two police dogs, the Secret Service said. Adesanya, who suffers from mental health problems, had been arrested in a previous White House breach, his father said.
  • In April 2014 a man wearing a hat of the Pokemon character Pikachu made it over the White House fence and onto the north lawn, where he was apprehended, the Daily News reported.

CNN’s Ryan Nobles contributed to this report.