Idaho man charged with trying to assassinate Obama

November 17, 2011 - 5:01 PM
Shots Fired White House

This image provided by the U.S. Park Police shows an undated image of Oscar Ortega. U.S. Park Police have an arrest warrant out for Ortega, who is believed to be connected to a bullet hitting an exterior window of the White House Friday and was stopped by ballistic glass. An additional round of ammunition was also found on the exterior of the White House. The bullets were found Tuesday Nov. 15, 2011. (AP Photo/U.S. Park Police)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — An Idaho man accused of firing an assault rifle at the White House was charged Thursday with attempting to assassinate President Barack Obama or his staff, and prosecutors say he called Obama "the devil" and said he needed to be killed.

Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, of Idaho Falls, made his first court appearance before a federal magistrate in Pittsburgh on Thursday, one day after he was arrested at a western Pennsylvania hotel.

According to a court document released after the hearing, authorities recovered nine spent shell casings from Ortega's car, which was abandoned near the White House. A person who knows him subsequently told investigators that he had become increasingly agitated with the federal government and was convinced it was conspiring against him, the document said. Others told investigators that Ortega had said Obama was "the anti-Christ" and the "devil." Ortega also reportedly said he "needed to kill" the president.

If convicted, Ortega faces up to life in prison.

Ortega's public defender, Christopher Brown, declined comment after the hearing.

He will be taken back from a federal court in Pittsburgh to face the charges in Washington, D.C. and 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.

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.

Ortega was arrested Wednesday afternoon at a hotel near Indiana, Pa., about 55 miles east of Pittsburgh, after a desk clerk recognized his picture. He had been reported missing Oct. 31 by his family.