White House

Intruder Arrested After Breaching White House Grounds: Secret Service

Monica Alba, Kelly O'Donnell, Erik Ortiz
Visions of America | UIG via Getty Images

A California man wearing a backpack managed to scale the fence along the southern side of the White House before midnight Friday — the first such breach reported during Donald Trump's presidency, the Secret Service said.

Trump would have been at the White House at the time, according to his schedule, but the intruder didn't manage to get very far.

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Secret Service officers approached the suspect — later identified as Jonathan Tran, 26, of Milpitas — in a restricted area on the east side of the White House complex, according to a Metropolitan Police Department report. As one officer approached Tran, he began to walk away.

And when asked if he had a pass, Tran said, "No, I am a friend of the President. I have an appointment," the report said.

He also told officers, "I jumped the fence," according to the report.

They arrested him on the south grounds without incident. He had been carrying a backpack, and prosecutors say he was carrying two cans of mace and his passport.

The man did not have a meeting with Trump, according to the Secret Service, and the president was subsequently briefed on the matter.

"The Service did a fantastic job. It was a troubled person. It was very sad," Trump told reporters Saturday afternoon amid a meeting with members of his Cabinet.

Officers, meanwhile, had swept the south and north grounds of the White House, but "nothing of concern to security operations was found," the Secret Service said in a statement.

Tran was arraigned in D.C. Superior Court on Saturday and charged with entering or remaining in restricted grounds with a weapon. He has no prior convictions, but a judge determined he is a flight risk and ordered him held until Monday, when he must see a magistrate in D.C. District Court.

Tran was carrying a letter he'd written to Trump in which he mentioned "Russian Hackers" and wrote he had relevant information, according to a charging document. He also mentioned that his "phone and email communications [had been] read by third parties," and that he had "been called schizophrenic," according bto the document.

Tran graduated from San Jose State University with a B.S. in electrical engineering in in 2014, the university said.

The White House security level was temporarily raised to "orange" — one of the highest — as a result of the intrusion.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was briefed on the incident as well. It's unclear whether any other members of the Trump family were home at the time, and the Metropolitan Police Department deferred comments to the Secret Service.

When asked whether the Secret Service handled the situation correctly or if officials are concerned about such intrusions, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer commended the officers.

The Secret Service "did a phenomenal job and they continue to provide phenomenal protection to the president and the first family, and the president was very appreciative of their efforts," he told reporters.

The White House has seen numerous attempts by people trying to hop the fence surrounding the storied residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. A 2014 incident in which an Army veteran carried a folding knife onto the grounds — and got as far as the East Room — led the White House to install sharp metal spikes on the fencing.

The Secret Service and National Park Service won approval earlier this year to build a taller fence meant to deter potential fence climbers. The current barrier is 7 feet, and the new one — at 11-foot-7 — could see construction start next year.