If I asked you, right now, how easy it would be to kill the president, you’d probably respond with some variation of “Really hard,” or “Damn near impossible.”
And you’d be… slightly wrong. Because it turns out Secret Service agents are just like us, in that they suck at their jobs.
In one, the Secret Service didn’t know the White House was struck by bullets, which seems impossible to believe, until you hear the second one, where it turns out a dude jumped the fence surrounding the White House and actually made it INSIDE the building.
Yea, see. You should try it yourself.
First, the first. You may vaguely remember the story of Oscar R. Ortega-Hernandez, who drove down Constitution Avenue and fired a bunch of bullets with a rifle at the White House. Barack and Michelle were out of town, so whatever. NBD.
Except, when you read how the Secret Service handled it.
Secret Service officers initially rushed to respond. One, stationed directly under the second-floor terrace where the bullets struck, drew her .357 handgun and prepared to crack open an emergency gun box. Snipers on the roof, standing just 20 feet from where one bullet struck, scanned the South Lawn through their rifle scopes for signs of an attack. With little camera surveillance on the White House perimeter, it was up to the Secret Service officers on duty to figure out what was going on.
Then came an order that surprised some of the officers. “No shots have been fired. . . . Stand down,” a supervisor called over his radio. He said the noise was the backfire from a nearby construction vehicle.
Oh. Yea. I think one of the qualifications for being on the Secret Service should be ‘the ability to differentiate between cars and guns,’ but that’s just me. Surely, once the Secret Service reviewed the situation, they determined what happened.
Nope, they just blamed it on gang activity in an area which has absolutely none.
By the end of that Friday night, the agency had confirmed a shooting had occurred but wrongly insisted the gunfire was never aimed at the White House. Instead, Secret Service supervisors theorized, gang members in separate cars got in a gunfight near the White House’s front lawn — an unlikely scenario in a relatively quiet, touristy part of the nation’s capital.
It wasn’t until four days (FOUR DAYS!) later when a housekeeper discovered a bullet hole in a window that the Secret Service realized the White House had been struck. That is a true statement of fact, which is also fucking nuts.
It took the Secret Service four days to realize that shots had hit the White House residence, a discovery that came about only because a housekeeper noticed broken glass and a chunk of cement on the floor.
The situation gets the opposite of better. The clearly deranged man crashed his car just blocks away and was still able to escape undetected.
Three women walking nearby heard the crash, and one called 911 on a cellphone. As they walked closer to the scene, the women saw … The driver’s-side door was flung open. The radio was blaring. The driver was gone.
At the same time, Park Police and Secret Service patrol cars were beginning to swarm the bridge area. Nestled in the driver console was a semiautomatic assault rifle, with nine shell casings on the floor and seat.
The man who had shot at the White House had disappeared on foot into the Washington night, with the Secret Service still trying to piece together what he had done.
Do yourself a service and read the entire gripping account, which includes the responses of an incensed president and First Lady. Then, this month, the Secret Service reported that a man who jumped the White House fence was detained at the door. How about, no?
The man who jumped the White House fence this month and sprinted through the front door made it much farther into the building than previously known, overpowering one Secret Service officer and running through much of the main floor, according to three people familiar with the incident.
After barreling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, dashed past the stairway leading a half-flight up to the first family’s living quarters. He then ran into the 80-foot-long East Room, an ornate space often used for receptions or presidential addresses.
Gonzalez was tackled by a counter-assault agent at the far southern end of the East Room. The intruder reached the doorway to the Green Room, a parlor overlooking the South Lawn with artwork and antique furniture, according to three people familiar with the incident.
Call me crazy, but I thought no one could get inside the White House. Turns out I was wrong.