Suspected White House gunman obsessed with Obama, family says
The family of an Idaho man charged with attempting to assassinate President Obama said he had begun acting unusual of late, and spent hours secretly searching on the Internet. But still, they cannot reconcile allegations that he considered Obama the "Antichrist" and wanted him dead.
A criminal complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania said that Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, 21, of Idaho Falls knowingly attempted "to kill the president of the United States." If convicted, he faces life in prison.
Ortega-Hernandez allegedly stopped his car outside the White House on Friday night and aimed a high-profile rifle at the building. At least two bullets were fired: One struck the exterior of the presidential mansion, while another cracked an exterior window onto the Obamas' living quarters, above.
The president and first lady were never in any danger -- they were in California at the time. But it remains unclear whether daughters Sasha and Malia were at home.
Law enforcement officials said in legal documents that some who knew Ortega-Hernandez said he was "preparing for something," and believed that Obama was "the devil" and needed to be "taken care of."
Ortega-Hernandez's mother and sister spoke to the Idaho Falls Post Register on Thursday and said they had noticed that his appearance had changed recently, and he had been acting oddly. He began strictly watching his health, and fighting in mixed martial arts. He also became withdrawn and began growing out his hair and beard. [Access to the full Post Register article requires a paid subscription.]
“That’s what started making me think there was something wrong,” his sister, Yesenia Hernandez, told the newspaper. “I’d ask, ‘Is it for the [MMA] fighting?’ He said, ‘No. I’m just trying something different.’ It was weird. Now, he looks like, I guess, like a terrorist. It’s like he’s trying to play out the part or something.”
They described him as a devoted father. He had his son's name -- Israel -- tattooed on his neck.
Yet something was off, Yesenia Hernandez told the newspaper. “He’s been acting a little strange lately, just keeping to himself,” she said. “It was just Internet, Internet, totally the Internet all day, every day. It seemed like he was obsessed with something, but no one would ask him. We’d come in, and he would turn off whatever he was looking at. He was always trying to keep it away from us.”
Maria Hernandez, the man's mother, said he never spoke of politics around family, although he sometimes said he was on a mission from God. “We never read too much into that,” Yesenia Hernandez said. “But I guess now, you kind of look at things differently.”
His family reported him missing around Halloween, and hadn't heard from him until the incident this week in Washington.
-- Rene Lynch
Photo: Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty Images