A 21-year-old man charged with firing a semiautomatic rifle at the White House last week called President Obama "the anti-Christ" and told federal agents he wanted to hurt the president, according to court documents released Thursday.
Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez of Idaho Falls, Idaho, was formally charged with attempting to assassinate Obama or members of his staff.
Ortega made his first court appearance before a federal magistrate in Pittsburgh, one day after he was arrested at a western Pennsylvania hotel. He will be taken from the federal court in Pittsburgh to face the charges in Washington.
A person in Idaho who knows him told federal agents that Ortega had become agitated against the federal government and was convinced there was a government conspiracy against him, FBI Agent Chris Ormerod said in an affidavit filed in federal court. The witness told agents Ortega wanted to "hurt" Obama and referred to him as "the anti-Christ." Another witness told investigators Ortega said he "needed to kill" Obama, Ormerod said.
A third witness, who has known Ortega for more than six years, said Ortega owns an assault weapon with a scope, Ormerod said in the affidavit. Ortega blamed Obama for problems with the federal government and believed Obama is the devil, the witness told federal agents.
If convicted, Ortega could face life in prison. He remains in federal custody until a magistrate in Washington can determine whether he should remain jailed until his trial on the charge.
Ortega sat quietly as the hearing began, his hands free but his feet shackled, the Associated Press reported. He said only "Yes, ma'am" when asked whether he understood that he would be going back to Washington to face the charge.
Law enforcement agents have been investigating whether Ortega — accused of firing at least two bullets at the White House on Friday, one of them cracking a window of the first family's living quarters — acted out of hatred for Obama.
President Obama, who is on a trip to the Asia-Pacific region, was not at the White House at the time of the shooting.
A witness said she saw a person in a dark-colored sedan stop in front of the Ellipse in front of the White House lawn and shoot through the passenger side window in the direction of the White House, according to the affidavit. The woman told police the sedan sped away from the area.
Park Police and the U.S. Secret Service found an abandoned black 1998 Honda Accord with an Idaho license plate near the ramp of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, which crosses the Potomac River into Virginia. A witness saw the driver of the car run away, Ormerod said. The car is registered to Ortega, he said.
Police searched the car and found a Romanian Cugir SA semiautomatic assault rifle with a large scope mounted the top of the weapon, Ormerod said. Officers found ammunition, including three magazines loaded with bullets and nine spent shell casings from the bullets. Police also found an aluminum baseball bat, brass knuckles, a sales receipt from a store in Fairfax, Va., and a black hoodie sweatshirt with a Los Angeles Dodgers logo.
Arlington County, Va., police had stopped Ortega earlier that day after a caller reported a suspicious person. Ortega refused to allow the police to search the car, but police, who photographed Ortega, said he was wearing the black hoodie.
FBI investigators found several bullet impact points on the south side of the White House on the second and third stories — the residence of the president and his family. The bullet and bullet fragments are the same type found in Ortega's car, Ormerod said.
The FBI took custody of Ortega's car Thursday afternoon to continue the process of reviewing evidence, said Lindsay Godwin, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Washington field office.
The Secret Service reported that one bullet struck an upstairs window on the south side of the White House — the residential portion of the building — but was stopped by bulletproof glass.
Another bullet struck the exterior of the building, though the service has not said exactly where.
Gunfire was reported at around 9 p.m. Friday near the White House, the Secret Service said. The sound of the shots came from south of the White House, around the intersection of 16th Street and Constitution Avenue, about 700 to 800 yards from the White House.
Ortega has an arrest record in three states but has not been linked to any radical organizations, U.S. Park Police said.
The last White House shooting occurred in 1994, when Francisco Martin Duran began firing a semiautomatic rifle from Pennsylvania Avenue, until bystanders subdued him. Duran is now serving a 40-year prison sentence for that incident.