President Barack Obama is “obviously concerned” that an intruder was able to enter into the White House’s private residence on Friday. But he still has “complete confidence” in the Secret Service and its ability to review the incident, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday.
During the White House’s daily press briefing, Earnest told reporters the Secret Service has initiated a full investigation of the incident, in which a man who scaled a fence Friday night was able to make it inside the doors of the president’s private residence.
Obama and the rest of the first family, who were en route to Camp David, were not present at the time.
Earnest said the Secret Service has beefed up foot patrols and training and has increased surveillance capabilities in the immediate aftermath of the incident. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, announcing the review in conjunction with the White House, said he “looks forward” to the result of the internal investigation. Johnson also urged caution in coming to immediate judgment about the case.
“In the meantime, I encourage all of us to not rush to judgment about the event and not second-guess the judgment of security officers who had only seconds to act, until all the facts are in,” Johnson said. “It is important to remember that the U.S. Secret Service remains one of the best, if not the best, protection services in the world.”
The Secret Service said in a statement over the weekend that 42-year-old Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, of Copperas Cove, Texas, was taken into custody just inside the North Portico doors after failing to respond to commands from Secret Service officers.
Gonzalez, a veteran of the Iraq war, was later found to have a knife in his possession. Family and friends of Gonzalez have told publications he was honorably discharged from the military and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. His former stepson said he has been travelling across the country over the past few years, living out of his truck with “heavy artillery.”
“I know he’s got heavy artillery, you know? He’s got all kinds of weapons and he was trained to use them,” Jerry Murphy, his former stepson, told CBS. “I believe if he wanted to make a scene or cause problems, he very well could have. But it’s clear that he didn’t.”
The White House on Monday did not immediately weigh in on reports the Secret Service was considering screening tourists and others at various checkpoints. Earnest said that decision was up to the agency to decide.
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