Originally published on June 18, 2015, at NationofChange.org
The Army veteran who scaled the White House fence last year and entered the East Room armed with a serrated knife was sentenced on Tuesday to 17 months in prison. Although Omar Gonzalez did not cause any physical damage, the Iraq war veteran did expose major flaws and incompetency within U.S. Secret Service. Amid a string of scandals and misconduct, the Secret Service has replaced a Director and six Assistant Directors in multiple attempts to improve failing leadership and tighten security.
At 7:19 p.m. on September 19, 2014, Secret Service agents noticed Omar Gonzalez climbing over the White House fence and landing on the North Lawn. As officers with the U.S. Secret Service’s Uniformed Division ran towards Gonzalez and ordered him to stop, Gonzalez rushed past them ignoring their commands. Although an attack dog was present, the handler chose not to release the canine fearing the dog might attack the other officers instead.
After racing across the lawn, Gonzalez burst through the front entrance of the White House where a uniformed officer failed to lock the door in time. The security alarm near the entrance had been disabled due to the fact that the White House staff had found it annoying. After knocking down the guard posted at the front door, Gonzalez ran across the hall and entered the East Room.
An off-duty Secret Service agent coincidentally leaving for the night tackled Gonzalez and detained him. While searching Gonzalez, officers found a three-and-a-half inch serrated folding knife in his front pants pocket. After searching his nearby vehicle, officers discovered hundreds of rounds of ammunition, hatchets, and a machete in his Ford Bronco.