An in-depth report from The Washington Post details how the Secret Service reportedly failed to identify and respond to a 2011 shooting attack on the White House.
The elite law enforcement agency tasked with protecting the president didn’t realize that bullets had hit the White House until five days after a gunman shot at the upstairs residence that houses the first family, according to the Post.
It wasn’t until a housekeeper noticed broken glass and a chunk of cement on the floor that the Secret Service realized what had happened. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were out of town the night of the attack, but their youngest daughter Sasha was home.
At least seven bullets hit the White House that night.
From the Post:
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 rifle 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.
The the gunman, Oscar R. Ortega-Hernandez, was eventually arrested, but the lack of initial response to the serious threat is concerning.
The Post also reports that it was “sheer luck” that Ortega-Hernandez was identified at all. He crashed his car seven blocks from the White House and left his gun inside.
This report comes a little over a week after an intruder armed with a knife managed to scale a White House fence and run into the building. Despite the incident, Obama said he has “full confidence” in the Secret Service.
A former Secret Service agent wrote in The Washington Post this week that the agency is “in over its head protecting the White House” and “isn’t prepared to hold back a coordinated attack … by multiple invaders.”
Secret Service morale has reportedly been declining during the past few years.