Washington: The White House was on Friday placed on lockdown for more than an hour when a man brandished a gun nearby and was shot at by Secret Service agents after he refused orders to drop the weapon.
The man – identified as Jesse Olivieri from Ashland, Pennsylvania – has been admitted to a nearby hospital with critical injuries, officials said. Eyewitnesses described him as around 5 feet, 10 inches tall with shaggy blonde hair.
The incident took place at around 3.06 PM (local time) when an “adult male subject, carrying a firearm, approached an outer perimeter checkpoint accessible to the general public” on E Street near the White House, the Secret Service said. The Secret Service agents gave numerous verbal commands for the accused to stop and drop the firearm.
“When he failed to comply with the verbal commands, he was shot once by a Secret Service agent and taken into custody,” said David A Iacovetti, Deputy Assistant Director Office of Government and Public Affairs, US Secret Service. “The Secret Service recovered a firearm at the scene.”
President Barack Obama was not present on the premises as he had gone to play golf at Andrews Airforce Base.
However, Vice President Joe Biden was present in the complex and the Secret Service agents rushed to him for additional security.
As a precautionary measure, the White House was immediately put under lockdown, with doors locked and agents in full tactical gear and armed with automatic and heavy- caliber weapons deployed around the complex and Lafayette Square to the north.
Snipers took to the White House roof with guns drawn as people were cleared off the streets. Some people were heard screaming on Pennsylvania Avenue.
During a search of the man’s vehicle parked near 17th Street and Constitution Avenue, federal agents found ammunition for a .22 caliber weapon.
Based on preliminary investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other law enforcement agencies said the shooting incident has no known nexus to terrorism.
“At this time, based on a preliminary investigation, there is no known nexus to terrorism,” said a joint statement issued by multiple agencies involved in the investigation including the Metropolitan Police Department, US Secret Service, United States Park Police, and FBI.
“However, an investigation continues into the motives behind his actions. The investigation is ongoing, and will continue to follow all logical leads,” said the statement issued late in the night.
No law enforcement personnel and bystanders were injured.
The White House has seen a number of security incidents in recent years, prompting changes at the executive complex. Just last month, a person was detained by secret service agents for allegedly throwing a backpack over the White House fence and then climbed over the barrier.