WASHINGTON — Federal authorities charged a 21-year-old Idaho man on Thursday with trying to assassinate President Barack Obama. They said he had told friends that he believed the president was “the Antichrist” and that he “needed to kill him,” according to a complaint filed in federal court.
The man, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, of Idaho Falls, who is accused of firing a semiautomatic assault rifle at the residential floors of the White House last week, was also “convinced the federal government is conspiring against him” and had become “increasingly more agitated” before he disappeared from Idaho last month, the complaint said.
The court papers were filed in conjunction with a brief appearance by Ortega-Hernandez in a federal courthouse in Pittsburgh on Thursday afternoon. Ortega-Hernandez was arrested Wednesday at a hotel near the town of Indiana, Pa., and officials intend to bring him back to the District of Columbia to face the assassination charge, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Ortega-Hernandez — who is heavily tattooed, including the word “Israel” on his neck — spoke briefly during the appearance, replying “yes, ma’am” when asked by a magistrate judge if he understood that most of the legal proceedings would take place in Washington, according to the Associated Press.
Law enforcement authorities had been hunting for Ortega-Hernandez since Friday night, after discovering evidence linked to him in a car abandoned about seven blocks from the White House.
The black Honda Accord with an Idaho license plate — which had been seen speeding away after gunshots were heard near the presidential mansion just after 9 p.m. that night — had a Romanian-made semiautomatic rifle inside.
The complaint filed in federal court said Ortega-Hernandez’s friends said he owned such a weapon. It also cited several witnesses who saw the sedan stop in front of the Ellipse — a grassy field between the White House and the Washington Monument — and saw or heard someone fire gunshots at the White House before the car sped away. Obama was out of town at the time.
Ortega-Hernandez’s family had reported him missing in Idaho Falls last month. He has a history of aberrant behavior and has had legal problems in Idaho, Texas and Utah, including drug charges, drinking, resisting arrest and assault on a police officer, officials have said.
The Secret Service did not have Ortega-Hernandez on record as someone who had made any threats to the president, an agency official said.