WASHINGTON >> A man wanted in an investigation of shots fired near the White House was arrested Wednesday in Pennsylvania, a day after agents discovered two bullets had struck the executive mansion while President Barack Obama was away, the U.S. Secret Service said.
The Secret Service said it discovered Tuesday that the two bullets had hit the White House, one apparently cracking a window on the level of the president’s living quarters, while Obama and his wife Michelle were on a trip to California and Hawaii. The president has since traveled on to Australia, second stop on a nine-day tour of the Asia-Pacific region.
The discovery of bullet holes followed reports of gunfire near the White House on Friday night, although the bullets have not been conclusively connected with that shooting, authorities said. On Friday, authorities found an abandoned vehicle with an assault rifle inside, which led authorities to disclose they had linked Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez to the reported gunfire.
A U.S. Park Police crime bulletin issued before Ortega’s arrest said he is known to have mental health issues.
"Ortega should be considered unstable with violent tendencies," the bulletin stated.
There are also indications he had become obsessed with Obama and the White House, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
Ortega, 21, was arrested Wednesday afternoon by Pennsylvania authorities at a hotel near Indiana, Pa., a community about 55 miles east of Pittsburgh, the Secret Service said. He was in Pennsylvania State Police custody. A tip from someone who saw and identified Ortega led to his arrest, Secret Service spokesman George Ogilvie said.
Ortega was arrested at a hotel and did not resist arrest, said Pennsylvania State Trooper Lt. Brad Shields. State troopers said Ortega had visited the hotel in recent days, and investigators believed he was back in the area Wednesday. The Secret Service passed out photographs, and a desk clerk recognized his picture and stalled him while notifying police.
Ortega’s first court appearance is scheduled Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh, according to the staff of U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Reed Eddy.
Ortega, from Idaho Falls, Idaho, was reported missing Oct. 31 by his family. On Friday morning, he was stopped by police in the Washington suburb of Arlington, Va., after officers were called for a report of a suspicious person. Police took photos of him but didn’t have any reason to arrest him, according to Arlington police Lt. Joe Kantor.
Ortega has an arrest record in three states but has not been linked to any radical organizations, U.S. Park Police have said.
Witnesses on Friday reported hearing shots and seeing two speeding vehicles in the area. The assault rifle was recovered nearby and the abandoned car that authorities linked to Ortega was found near the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, which crosses the Potomac River to Virginia.
The bullet that hit the White House window was stopped by ballistic glass. The Secret Service did not disclose the location of the second bullet, saying only that it "was found on the exterior of the White House."
Obama and the first lady had traveled without daughters Malia and Sasha on Friday to San Diego en route to Hawaii for a summit, prior to heading to Australia. The White House had no immediate comment on the shooting report or arrest or on who may have been home at the time.
On Wednesday, officials could be seen taking photographs of a window on the executive mansion’s south face. The window is in front of the so-called Yellow Oval Room, according to the White House website. The room is in the middle of the family’s living quarters on the floor that includes the president’s bedroom and the Lincoln Bedroom.
In 2010, there were a series of pre-dawn shootings at military buildings in the Washington area, including the Pentagon and the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Police charged a Marine Corps reservist with those shootings earlier this year. The suspect, Yonathan Melaku of Alexandria, Va., remains in custody.
In the last shooting at the White House, a Colorado man sprayed the mansion with at least 27 semiautomatic rifle bullets from Pennsylvania Avenue in an attempt to assassinate President Bill Clinton in October 1994. Bystanders subdued the suspect, and no one was injured. Francisco Martin Duran was later convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison for that shooting.
The next year, Pennsylvania Avenue was closed to traffic to bolster security.
Associated Press writers Jessie Bonner in Boise, Idaho, Joe Mandak in Pittsburgh, Kevin Begos in Indiana, Pa., Matt Apuzzo in Washington and AP photographer Haraz Ghanbari in Washington contributed to this report.