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Alleged White House gunman did not act alone, mother says

November 17, 2011 | 11:27 am

The man suspected of firing bullets at the White House was obsessed with President Obama and believed that he was on a mission from God when he allegedly used a high-powered weapon to take shots at the presidential mansion, cracking one of the windows outside the Obamas' living quarters, authorities said.

But the man's mother said there's no way her son is capable of such an act, and that if he did commit it, he had to have been under the influence of someone else.

Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, 21, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, was arrested Wednesday in Pennsylvania following a multi-agency manhunt. The search went into overdrive after Tuesday's discovery of two bullets outside the White House, including one that struck a historic window but was halted by protective glass.

"Oscar alone would not be able to do any of this," Maria Hernandez told the Idaho Falls Post Register. "Maybe if he was guided by someone else or something on the Internet, but I really don't know."

The president was never in any danger in connection with the incident, officials said. He and the first lady were in California on Friday when the shots were fired, although it's unclear whether daughters Sasha and Malia were home at the time.

Authorities believe that Ortega-Hernandez dressed in black and positioned his car near the White House at about 9:30 p.m. Friday, using a high-powered weapon to open fire, the Associated Press reported.

Officials had responded to the sound of gunfire that night but were apparently unaware that the White House was the target. As part of that investigation, they found Ortega-Hernandez's car and an assault rifle inside.

It was not until Tuesday that authorities discovered that a bullet had struck a window of the Yellow Oval Room, which is in the middle of the family's living quarters, and that another one had struck the exterior of the home.

The suspect is expected to make his first court appearance at 2 p.m. Thursday in Pittsburgh.

If Ortega-Hernandez did fire the bullets, his motive remains unclear. The Associated Press reported that authorities believe he has mental health issues.

There are also early indications that he was obsessed with Obama and believed attacking the White House was part of a personal mission from God, the wire service reported. Although he has an arrest record in three states, he has no apparent ties to extremist organizations, U.S. Park Police have said.
Ortega-Hernandez's family reported him missing Oct. 31 after he failed to return from a vacation. "He was gone from the city; said he was going on vacation and was supposed to be back in a week," Hernandez told the Idaho Falls newspaper. "Three weeks later, he wasn't back and his girlfriend reported him missing." (Viewing the article requires a paid subscription.)

She said it is too soon to jump to any conclusions about her son. "They don't know if it was him driving the car and if it was him [who fired the gun]," she told the newspaper. "He is just a person of interest. They don't know if it was him."

She disagreed with any suggestion that her son might be mentally ill, adding that he has no history of such problems and has never been on medication.

"He has different ideas than other people, just like everyone, but he was perfectly fine the last time I saw him," Hernandez said. "He might be saying weird stuff that sounds crazy, but that doesn't mean [he] is crazy. He might be confused and scared."


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The Associated Press contributed to this report.