The man who broke into the White House two weeks ago was able to make his way far into the property before being tackled in the East Room -- the room where President Obama and many other presidents have made some of their most important announcements, a law enforcement official confirmed today to ABC News.
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The development calls into question the narrative originally released by the Secret Service, which had suggested that Omar Gonzalez, 42, of Texas, had been taken into custody near the front doors of the White House after jumping the fence and running more the 100 yards into the national landmark.
“Gonzalez failed to comply with responding Secret Service Uniformed Division Officers’ verbal commands, and was physically apprehended after entering the White House North Portico doors,” the Secret Service said in a statement on Sept. 20.
When he jumped over the fence outside of the White House, Gonzalez was allegedly carrying a folding pocket knife. After pushing through the front doors, he ran to the East Room, according to the official, confirming details first reported by The Washington Post.
A Secret Service spokesperson declined to comment, but the agency’s director, Julie Pierson, will be on the hot seat Tuesday as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hold a hearing to examine several issues dogging the Secret Service.
In an interview with ABC News, the chairman of the committee, Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said Gonzalez got deep enough into the White House that had President Obama or Vice President Joe Biden been there “they could have been attacked.”
Signs of increased security around the White House were almost immediate after Gonzales made it into the complex, including additional barriers outside of the White House gates. In addition, the Secret Service beefed-up foot patrols along the fence line of the White House complex and deployed additional surveillance resources, a White House spokesman said at the time.
Gonzalez had been homeless in the nation’s capital for the past three months after 13 years in the U.S. Army, including a tour in Iraq.
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