American charged over bid to kill Obama

AN IDAHO man accused of firing an assault rifle at the White House was charged yesterday with attempting to assassinate President Barack Obama or his staff, and prosecutors say he called Obama “the devil” and said he needed to be killed.

Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, of Idaho Falls, made his first court appearance before a federal magistrate in Pittsburgh yesterday, one day after he was arrested at a western Pennsylvania hotel.

According to a court document released after the hearing, authorities recovered nine spent shell casings from Ortega’s car, which was abandoned near the White House.

A person who knows him subsequently told investigators that he had become increasingly agitated with the federal government and was convinced it was conspiring against him, the document said.

Others told investigators Ortega had said Obama was “the anti-Christ” and the “devil”. Ortega also reportedly said he “needed to kill” the president.

If convicted, Ortega faces up to life in prison.

Ortega’s public defender, Christopher Brown, declined comment after the hearing.

Ortega sat quietly as the hearing began. The 21-year-old said only, “Yes, ma’am” when he was asked if he understood he would be going back to Washington to face the charge.

Authorities said a man pulled his car within view of the White House on Friday night and fired shots from an assault rifle, cracking a window of the first family’s living quarters while the president was away.

Soon after, US Park Police found an abandoned vehicle, with an assault rifle inside it, near a bridge leading out of the nation’s capital to Virginia. The car led investigators to Ortega.

Ortega was arrested Wednesday afternoon at a hotel near Indiana about 90km east of Pittsburgh, after a desk clerk recognised his picture. He had been reported missing on October 31 by his family.

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