Timeline: White House Intrusions

Updated July 22, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

From gate crashers to fence jumpers, several uninvited guests have attempted to gain access to the White House over the years.

1840 1912 1974 1985 1994 2005 2014
An intoxicated painter throws stones from outside the fence aiming at President John Tyler as he walks the South Grounds.

Angered by President Tyler's veto of a bill that would establish a Second Bank of the United States, a mob gathers at the gates. The mob fires guns and throws stones at the White House.

Michael Winter manages to get into the White House not once, but twice in 1912. With a knife in his pocket, he runs up the steps, past the doorkeeper, only to be caught and thrown out. A few minutes later, he does it again. He insists he wants to talk to President William Taft, but never says why.

1974 Dec. 25
A man who claimed to be the Messiah, Marshall Fields, drove his Chevrolet Impala through the Northwest Gate. Fields tells the Secret Service that he has explosives strapped to him, but the explosives turn out to be flares. He surrenders four hours later.

1976 Dec. 1
Steven B. Williams attempts to drive his pickup truck through the Northwest Gate. However, the new reinforced gates don't buckle. Williams' truck is flattened.

1976 July
Local taxi driver Chester Plummer climbs over the 8-foot fence with a 3-foot metal pipe in hand. As he moves toward the White House, an officer confronts him. The officer ends up shooting Plummer who dies 90 minutes later.

1978 Oct.
Wearing a karate suit and carrying a Bible, Anthony Henry climbs over the fence. He yanks a knife from the Bible and attacks two officers before captured. Henry's intrusion, according to him, is an effort to get President Jimmy Carter to remove the phrase "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency.

1985 Jan.
On the same day that Ronald Reagan is sworn in for his second term, Robert Latta enters the White House with the Marine Band. Latta explores the building for 15 minutes before he is apprehended.

1994 Sept.
Former Army mechanic Frank Eugene Corder steals a single-engine Cessna airplane and flies it onto the South Lawn during President Bill Clinton's first term. The plane crashes into the wall just below the presidential bedroom. Intoxicated at the time, Corder is the only one killed.

1994 Oct.
While President Clinton is in the White House watching football, Francisco Martin Duran opens fire on the building. He fires 29 rounds before he stops to reload. At that time, he's tackled and captured. Later, Duran says he was attempting to save the world from alien mist. He is sentenced to 40 years in prison for attempted assassination.

2001 Feb.
Former IRS accountant Robert Pickett fires several shots toward the White House. During a 10-minute standoff with the Secret Service, Pickett refuses to drop his weapon. Finally, an agent shoots him in the knee while President George W. Bush is exercising a few feet away in his private residence. Having a history of mental illness, Pickett is sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.

2005 Jan.
Angry that his daughter's fiancé might be deported, Lowell Timmers threatens to blow up his van parked near the White House. During a standoff which lasts more than four hours, Timmers tells authorities "I want my son, and I'm not leaving until my son-in-law is out of jail." Finally, Timmers surrenders. Later, he pleads guilty to making a threat with false explosives.

2009 Nov.
Reality TV stars Michaele and Tareq Salahi pass through two security checkpoints to attend a White House state dinner. While there, they mingle with the president, vice president, and chief of staff. Later, the couple pleads the fifth at a congressional hearing held to examine the security breach. To this day, publicly, they maintain that they had been invited to the event.

2011 Nov.
Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez fires at least eight rounds at the White House from his Honda Accord. He hits the building several times before fleeing the scene. President Barack Obama, who Ortega-Hernandez calls "the anti-Christ," is away at the time of the incident. Ortega-Hernandez is captured five days later in a Pennsylvania hotel room. He is sentenced to 25 years in prison after authorities drop an assassination charge as part of a plea deal.

2013 June
Joseph Clifford Reel rigs a driverless jeep and crashes it into the White House security gate. His plan is to create a diversion while he paints a sign, "Don't tread on me" on the exterior of the building. However, Reel is captured with a can of spray paint in hand before he does any damage. No one is hurt in the vehicle crash. Later, Reel claims to suffer from bipolar disorder. He is sentenced to nearly three years in prison.
2014 Sept. 19
Hours after the first family has left the main residence, Omar Jose Gonzalez jumps the fence and runs across the North Lawn, carrying a knife. Gonzalez enters the main residence where he is apprehended by an officer. Police find more than 800 rounds of ammunition in his car. Later it is revealed that when Gonzalez had been arrested by Virginia police in July 2014, he had several weapons and a White House map in his possession. In the days following the breach, a House committee holds a hearing to examine how the U.S. Secret Service failed to prevent the intrusion. Following the hearing, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigns.

—Jennie Wood

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