An Iraq war veteran who allegedly scaled a White House security fence to enter the building, had 800 rounds of ammunition, a machete and two hatchets in his car parked nearby, according to investigators.
A spokesman for President Barack Obama said the leader was “obviously concerned” about the incident last Friday.
The US Secret Service, which is tasked with protecting the President and his family, has since increased security at the iconic building on Pennsylvania Avenue, with some guards holding weapons, while others escort guard dogs.
A new waist-high barricade has also been erected on the site, closing off part of the pavement outside the building.
The alleged intruder, Omar J Gonzalez, 42, has been charged with entering a restricted building or grounds while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon.
Earlier in the summer, he was arrested in the nearby state of Virginia with weapons stashed in his car, authorities said. A federal prosecutor told a court on Monday that during the incident in Virginia, Gonzalez had a map on which the White House was circled.
The court heard that Gonzalez was under indictment for the Virginia incident, and was accused of possessing a sawn-off shotgun and trying to elude police.
Less than a month ago on 25 August, Gonzalez was stopped while walking along the south fence of the White House with ihs car parked nearby and a hatchet in his rear waist band, the prosecutor said.
Before the incident on Friday, the President and his family had left the White House for their Camp David country retreat. Gonzalez was seized just inside the building’s front door – leading to criticism of White House procedures, after officials appeared to acknowledge the front door was unlocked, the Guardian reported.
Asked about the incident at the White House, President Obama said, “The Secret Service does a great job, and I'm grateful for the sacrifices that they make on my behalf - and my family's behalf.”
But spokesman Josh Earnest said the president was “obviously concerned” about what had happened.
If found guilty, Gonzalez faces 10 years in prison.
Gonzalez joined the US Army in 1997, before he was discharged in 2003, and again from 2005 to 2012 when he a disability forced him to retire.
Earnest said the Secret Service investigation will include a review of protective efforts both inside the White House grounds and outside the fence line along Pennsylvania Avenue, including staffing and threat assessment policies and procedures. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee also announced it would hold a hearing next week.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said he would ultimately review the findings of the investigation ordered by Secret Service Director Julia Pierson. Johnson said the public should not rush to judgment about the security breach and urged against second-guessing security officers whom he said “had only seconds to act.”
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content