PITTSBURGH — An Idaho man accused of firing two shots at the White House last week has been charged with attempting to assassinate President Barack Obama or his staff.
Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, made his first court appearance before a federal magistrate in Pittsburgh on Thursday, one day after he was arrested at a western Pennsylvania hotel. He will be taken back from a federal court in Pittsburgh to face the charges in Washington, D.C.
Ortega will remain in federal custody at least until a magistrate in Washington can determine if he should remain jailed until his trial on the charge, which carries up to life in prison.
Ortega sat quietly as the hearing began, his hands free but his feet shackled. The 21-year-old said only, “Yes, ma’am” when he was asked if he understood that he would be going back to Washington to face the charge.
Authorities said a man clad in black who was obsessed with Obama 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, U.S. 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.
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.
Ortega was arrested Wednesday afternoon at a hotel near Indiana, Pa., about 55 miles east of Pittsburgh, after a desk clerk recognized his picture. He had been reported missing Oct. 31 by his family.