President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama were reportedly angry at the Secret Service for failing to identify and respond to a man who had fired a high-powered rifle at the White House in 2011.
Officers allegedly performed a string of security lapses after Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, then 21, shot at least seven bullets at the executive mansion in Washington from his vehicle, the Daily Mail reports.
Although the president, the First Lady and their older daughter Malia were away at the time of the shooting, their younger daughter Sasha and Michelle Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, were inside.
The agency’s “fumbled” response to the shooting on Nov. 11, 2011, was detailed Saturday in a Washington Post investigation.
According to the new report, it apparently took four days for the Secret Service to realize that gunshots had hit the Obama residence.
In the incident, Ortega-Hernandez, fired his semi-automatic pistol out of the passenger window of his black Honda, which was parked south of the mansion.
Secret Service officers rushed to respond to the shots, with one stationed under the second-floor terrace withdrawing her handgun, but the supervisor wrongly informed them: “No shots have been fired... stand down.”
The supervisor claimed the noise came from a nearby construction vehicle, the Post reports.
Even after it had been confirmed that gunshots were fired, the agency initially theorized rival gangs had gotten into a gunfight near the mansion’s front lawn.
Secret Service reportedly did not discover that the White House had been struck until four days later when a housekeeper noticed broken glass and a chunk of cement on the floor inside.
The agency did not interview key witnesses until after bullets were found, and only conducted a cursory inspection of the White House for evidence or damage.
Michelle Obama came back to Washington from Hawaii after spending Veterans Day weekend with her husband, and was furious to learn from an usher that bullets had hit the White House. The Post alleges that some Secret Service officers immediately knew that shots had been fired into the White House, but were either “largely ignored” or “afraid to dispute their bosses’ conclusions.”
Ortega-Hernandez was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to firing an assault rifle at the White House.
A Secret Service official told the Associated Press that the agency’s investigation of the shooting was delayed by “an uncertain situation,” including echoing shots from a quarter mile away and confused witness reports.
"I'm not saying this was our shining moment, but we never stopped looking for this guy," the official said.
Image Credit: The Associated Press