Peoples and Nations

Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez

Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez

The following article on Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez is an excerpt from Mel Ayton's Hunting the President: Threats, Plots, and Assassination Attempts-From FDR to Obama.


Perhaps the most dangerous threat to President Obama's life came from twenty-one-year-old Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, who had criminal records in Idaho, Texas, and Utah for crimes involving drugs, underage drinking, domestic violence, resisting arrest, and assault on a police officer. In November 2011, OrtegaHernandez drove to Washington, D.C., to spend time with the Occupy D.C. protesters across the street from the White House. He said God had given him a personal mission to attack the White House.

Ortega-Hernandez called himself a “modern-day Jesus” and considered Obama to be a devil. He was also convinced that the government was conspiring against him. He even suggested to an acquaintance that the president was planning to implant computertracking chips into children.

Shortly after 9:00 p.m. on November 11, 2011, Ortega-Hernandez slowed down as he passed the White House in his black Honda Accord and fired a Romanian Cugir assault-style semiautomatic rifle from the passenger window at the White House. At least one bullet struck the presidential residence. The shooting came from roughly 750 yards south of the White House, just outside the outer security perimeter. A bullet was found a few days later embedded in the bulletproof window of the second floor of the White House, where the president and his family had their living quarters. But there was no danger to President Obama as he was in San Diego on his way to an Asia-Pacific economic forum in Hawaii.

Secret Service agents responded, and one agent said he saw a car speed away west on Constitution Avenue. A few minutes after the shooting, Ortega-Hernandez abandoned his car about seven blocks away, leaving his rifle, ammunition, and nine spent shell casings inside. It didn't take long for agents to learn that the car belonged to Ortega-Hernandez.

Five days later the Secret Service, which had circulated photographs of the suspect around the country, was tipped off to OrtegaHernandez's whereabouts by an employee at the Hampton Inn near Indiana, Pennsylvania. The employee recognized a photograph of him and called the Pittsburgh Secret Service field office. The field office alerted the Pennsylvania State Police, which dispatched troopers to the hotel and arrested the White House shooter.

When agents interviewed Ortega-Hernandez's relatives, they were told that the suspect had a “fixation” with the White House and had fantasies of killing the president. Friends suggested Ortega-Hernandez had been influenced by Alex Jones, an Austin-based talk show host who espoused numerous and ludicrous conspiracy theories. In the previous year, Ortega-Hernandez and others had watched an antigovernment internet film called “The Obama Deception,” which was written, directed, and produced by Jones.

Psychiatrists determined that Ortega-Hernandez was mentally fit to stand trial, and a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned a seventeen-count indictment against him. In addition to the attempted assassination charge, he was charged with assaulting federal officers with a deadly weapon, injuring property of the United States, and related firearms charges.