Judge denies testing of alleged White House shooter

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 19, 2011 4:09 AM
Judge denies testing of alleged White House shooter

By Jeremy Pelofsky

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A judge declined on Friday to order a full psychological evaluation of the man accused of trying to kill President Barack Obama when he opened fire on the White House last month, saying no evidence pointed to such a need.

Oscar Ortega-Hernandez, 21, from Idaho, was charged with trying to assassinate Obama on November 11, after authorities found five bullet impact points on the south side of the executive mansion on or above the second story where the president's family quarters are located.

Obama was not at the White House complex at the time of the shooting.

Even though a doctor who did an initial screening on Ortega-Hernandez determined he was mentally competent to stand trial, prosecutors asked for a complete examination because they were concerned alleged comments he made might be seen as delusional, making it possible for his attorneys to build a defense around an insanity claim.

They pointed to statements that Ortega-Hernandez described himself as Jesus Christ and that he allegedly told others that "President Obama needed to be taken care of" as possible indications that he was delusional.

But after a two-hour hearing on Friday with the doctor who did the initial screening, U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola said "at this point I haven't heard any evidence" to suggest that he was not competent.

Elisabeth Teegarden, the doctor who conducted the initial 50-minute survey, said during the court hearing that she found "he was clearly competent to stand trial." She said that he either denied those statements or refused to discuss them.

His attorneys also said he was helping them in his defense strategy.


Prosecutors also revealed new details about events leading up to the shooting and Ortega-Hernandez's alleged subsequent flight from the scene, including that he was spotted aboard a freight train in West Virginia days after the incident.

A former FBI photographer who took pictures of trains as a hobby, spotted someone riding in a train car and snapped a shot. Later the photographer realized the person looked like Ortega-Hernandez and told authorities, prosecutors said in a court filing made late on Thursday.

After being apprehended, Ortega-Hernandez allegedly told authorities he was the owner of the vehicle found after the shooting. He claimed that he was robbed of his car and its contents hours before the incident and denied owning a firearm.

Prosecutors said that Ortega-Hernandez was seen on surveillance camera footage at a Walmart two hours after he was allegedly robbed wearing a jacket that was found in his car after the shooting.

One witness previously told authorities that Ortega-Hernandez "wanted to kill Obama and that the president was the devil and anti-Christ", but the Thursday court filing revealed that the witness has since claimed not remembering him make the threat.

Another witness told authorities that Ortega-Hernandez said he was "chosen" to "take care of" Obama, which the witness took to mean to kill the president, according to the court filing.

Charged with attempting to assassinate the president, if convicted Ortega-Hernandez faces up to life in prison.

(Reporting By Jeremy Pelofsky; editing by Philip Barbara)