Suspect arrested after intrusion into White House grounds

An intruder carrying a backpack was arrested after scaling a fence around the White House and entering the grounds.
The suspect was arrested near the South Portico entrance of the White House on Friday night. In a brief statement, the Secret Service said the intruder had breached the outer perimeter.
The suspect was arrested near the South Portico entrance of the White House on Friday night. In a brief statement, the Secret Service said the intruder had breached the outer perimeter.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • A California man carrying two cans of mace and a letter to President Donald Trump about "Russian hackers" scaled a White House fence and neared an entrance to the presidential mansion before he was arrested.

The suspect, identified as Jonathan Tuan-Anh Tran, 26, had approached the exterior of the White House last Friday night. He walked alongside the building and then hid behind a pillar before he was arrested near the South Portico entrance.

Court documents related to the arrest omitted any reference to alarms sounding and suggested that the first recognition of an intruder's presence came when a uniformed agent saw the man.

The Secret Service declined to answer questions about how the man penetrated so deep onto the White House grounds, citing an ongoing investigation. In a brief statement, the agency said the intruder had breached the outer perimeter.

On Saturday, Mr Trump praised the Secret Service for a "fantastic job". Mr Trump, who was spending the weekend in the nation's capital, was in the White House at the time of the intrusion. He was apprised of the situation, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told journalists.

A District of Columbia Superior Court judge ordered the suspect detained through the weekend. He was charged with entering restricted grounds while carrying a dangerous weapon.

Tran is expected to appear in a federal court today. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The charges were upgraded from his initial arrest for unlawful entry.

His court-appointed attorney, Mr Gregg Baron, asked that his client be released. But Judge Jennifer DiToro ruled Tran was a flight and safety risk.

The suspect is from Milpitas, just outside San Jose. He made no public statement.

A federal law enforcement official said Tran has no prior criminal record and no history with the Secret Service. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss information about the suspect that is not usually made public by police.

Tran told a Secret Service officer that he has been "called schizophrenic", according to the criminal complaint. He had the mace in a jacket pocket and a book bag with a book on the President, a US passport and an Apple laptop computer.

On the computer, the Secret Service said it found a letter addressed to Mr Trump discussing Russian hackers and saying that Tran had "information of relevance". Tran alleged in the letter that he had been followed and that his phone and e-mail were being monitored by others.

The intrusion was thought to be the first since Mr Trump took office on Jan 20.

WASHINGTON POST, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2017, with the headline 'Suspect arrested after intrusion into White House grounds'. Print Edition | Subscribe