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Man Caught At White House Is An Army Veteran

Omar J. Gonzales, the 42-year-old man who the Secret Service says ran onto the White House grounds and entered a door Friday night, is an Army veteran who served in Iraq and was reportedly a sniper.

As we reported yesterday, Gonzales is accused of scaling a fence, running across the lawn of the presidential residence and opening a door at the North Portico just before 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Obama family was not at home at the time, and initial reports were that the intruder was unarmed — but court documents filed yesterday say he was carrying a small folding knife.

"Authorities have identified the intruder from Friday night's shocking incident as Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, of Copperas Cove, Texas," the AP reports, "and the Army said he had served from 1997 to 2003, when he was discharged, and then again from 2005 to December 2012, when he retired."

Gonzalez has been suffering from depression and had been taking medication, according to a family member contacted by The Los Angeles Times. The relative says Gonzalez has had a hard time since he was injured by an IED while he was deployed to Iraq.

From the Times:

"A family member in California said Gonzalez, 42, of Copperas Cove, Texas, near Fort Hood, has been homeless and living alone in the wild and in campgrounds with his two pet dogs for the last two years.

"'We talked to him on 9/11 and he said he planned to go to a Veterans Administration hospital to seek treatments,' said the family member, who asked that he not be identified pending completion of the Secret Service investigation.

"'He's been depressed for quite some time,' the relative said. 'He'd been taking antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. I suspect he stopped taking it, otherwise this wouldn't have happened.'"

The Washington Post spoke to Gonzalez's former stepson, who said the veteran is a trained sniper who is "a very good guy. He is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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