Army veteran Omar J. Gonzalez is facing charges of unlawfully entering and carrying a dangerous weapon after leaping over the White House fence and making his way through the front door before being apprehended.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Gonzalez Believed the Atmosphere Is Collapsing
After Gonzalez was arrested by Secret Service, he stated that “he was concerned the atmosphere was collapsing and needed to get the information to the President of the United States so he could get the word out to the people,” according to the criminal complaint against him:
Gonzalez jumped the White house fence on the night of Friday, September 19, before sprinting untouched to the north White House door, facing Pennsylvania Avenue, making his way to the vestibule and an unlocked door.
Every day the Secret Service is challenged to ensure security at the White House complex while still allowing public accessibility to a national historical site, although last night the officers showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with this subject, the location of Gonzalez’s arrest is not acceptable.
2. He’s a Decorated Army Veteran Who Was Discharged for PTSD
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 21, 2014
Gonzalez is a highly decorated Iraq veteran, with over a dozen awards, ribbons and badges, including Good Conduct medals, Iraq Campaign medal, Combat Action badge and an Expert Marksmanship badge.
Gonzalez, 42, is a native of Copperas Cove, Texas, with over 13 years in the military. According to the Army, Gonzalez served from 1997 until he was discharged in 2003, then again from 2005 to December 2012, retiring due to disability.
After enlisting in July 1997, Gonzalez was assigned to the 10th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas. Samantha Bell, Gonzalez’s ex-wife, said Gonzalez had been honorably discharged for medical reasons, suffering from plantar fasciitis on his feet along with post-traumatic stress disorder, for which he was prescribed several medications.
Also, according to Gonzalez’s ex-wife, he kept the blinds drawn and would constantly checked to see if his doors were locked. She even found him standing at the foot of her bed staring at her, explaining he only wanted to watch her sleep. Gonzalez also felt his phones were being tapped and he was being watched.
She said Gonzalez kept the blinds drawn and would repeatedly go downstairs during the night to make sure the doors were locked and the oven was off. She said she once woke up in the middle of the night to find Gonzalez standing at the foot of the bed and staring at her. She said he told her he was simply wanted to watch her sleep.
3. Cops Found 800 Rounds of Ammo & a Machete in His Car
— WPTV (@WPTV) September 21, 2014
In court on Monday, September 22, federal prosecutor David Mudd said officials found 800 rounds of ammunition plus two hatchets and a machete in Gonzalez’s car after his arrest at the White House. No guns were found.
— NewsOrly (@NewsOrly) September 22, 2014
But Fox reports there were two other recent incidents involving Gonzalez: On July 19 he was arrested after evading cops in Virginia. In his car he a possessed a sawed-off shotgun, two high-powered rifles, four handguns, a tomahawk and a map of D.C. with the White House and a Masonic Temple circled. On August 25 Gonzalez was stopped outside the White House fence with a hatchet.
4. He Stormed the White House Armed Only With a Small Knife in His Pocket
Jerry Murphy, the son of Gonzalez’s ex-wife, said, “I know he’s got heavy artillery, you know? He’s got all kinds of weapons and he was trained to use them. I believe if he wanted to make a scene or cause problems, he very well could have. But it’s clear that he didn’t.”
According to sources, after his second tour in Iraq, Gonzalez began carrying a .45 on himself at all times. Gonzalez also owned several rifles in his home.
But when Gonzalez was apprehended at the White House, the only weapon he had was a 3.5-inch folding knife in his pocket.
5. Up to 20 Percent of Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans Suffer From PTSD
While research is still being performed and gathered from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, stats from NerdWallet indicate there are 2.8 million American veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, with an estimated 11-20 percent of those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The highest estimated number of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder — both diagnosed and undiagnosed — is 460,000, with 118,829 deployed veterans diagnosed with PTSD since 2002, as of January 10, 2014.
Here are some other stats relating to PTSD from Veterans PTSD Statistics:
There are over 2.3 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (compared to 2.6 million Vietnam veterans who fought in Vietnam; there are 8.2 million “Vietnam Era Veterans” (personnel who served anywhere during any time of the Vietnam War).
At least 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or Depression. (Military counselors I have interviewed state that, in their opinion, the percentage of veterans with PTSD is much higher; the number climbs higher when combined with TBI.) Other accepted studies have found a PTSD prevalence of 14 percent; see a complete review of PTSD prevalence studies, which quotes studies with findings ranging from 4-17 percent of Iraq War veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder).
Fifty percent of those with PTSD do not seek treatment.