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As White House Fence Jumper Heads to Prison, Security Upgrades Continue

Gonzalez was arraigned for charges stemming from the White House intrusion. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Gonzalez was arraigned for charges stemming from the White House intrusion. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Iraq war veteran Omar Gonzalez is headed to prison for the White House intrusion that raised serious questions about the Secret Service’s ability to secure the executive mansion.  

A judge sentenced the 43-year-old to serve 17 months behind bars. Meanwhile, security changes implemented as a result of the Sept. 19 breach are still underway. To fortify the fence Gonzalez scaled, the Secret Service and National Park Service announced a new “removable anti-climb feature consisting of sharp metal points” would be installed. Construction will begin in July and is expected to take about four weeks, according to a May 7 statement.  Authorities are still studying a more long-term solution.  

Improvements to the vehicle checkpoints on E Street Northwest are expected to be completed in early July. Crews are rearranging existing officer booths on E Street, installing a new officer booth at the Constitution Avenue entrance to the Ellipse, and updating the vehicle checkpoints by replacing concrete barriers with mobile steel plate barriers that can be raised and lowered.  

Gonzalez’s vehicle, which he gave authorities consent to search after his arrest, was parked on Constitution Avenue. The vehicle contained hundreds of rounds of ammunition, in boxes and in magazines; hatchets and a machete, according to government evidence.  

Other changes were implemented in the wake of Gonzalez’s breach. The fence-jumper made it into the White House, armed with a folding knife, after agents failed to stop him on the lawn.  

Gonzalez entered the double front doors of the White House — an unlocked glass storm door and an ornamental wood door — that was in the process of being locked by hand.  

The intrusion took place on a Friday around 7:19 p.m. Eleven days later, during a rare recess hearing , then-Secret Service Director Julia Pierson testified to a congressional panel that automatic locks had been installed after the incident. She confirmed that Gonzalez made it much further into the president’s home than initially reported. He was handcuffed “just outside of the Green Room,” she said.  

Pierson resigned the next day .

Gonzalez, formerly of Copperas Cove, Texas, pleaded guilty on March 13 to two federal offenses. Prosecutors initially said he could face up to 15 years for the charges. Upon completion of his 17-month prison term, Gonzalez will be placed on three years of supervised release.

“Mr. Gonzalez is now paying the price for his foolish decision to jump the fence and run inside the White House,” acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen said in a Tuesday statement.

“When he finishes his prison term, he will be barred from entering the District of Columbia and must receive psychiatric treatment,” Cohen added. “The prison sentence imposed by the court should deter others from taking actions that needlessly put the First Family and White House employees at risk.”

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