White House shooting renews focus on Secret Service readiness

The White House was placed on a security alert Friday after a shooting on a street outside. (Mark Meredith/Media General)

WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) — A Secret Service agent shot a man near the White House on Friday afternoon, renewing focus on its readiness to guard one of the nation’s most prominent terror targets.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were not in the White House at the time.

Initial reports suggest the man was armed with a gun, refused to drop the weapon despite several warnings and was finally shot once by an agent on scene.

The quick action and minimal disruption suggests the Secret Service was prepared for such an incident, providing a stark contrast to a string of high-profile — and highly embarrassing — security lapses over the last few years.

November 2011 – Secret Service agents initially missed a shooting that left several bullet markings in the second-floor windows of the White House residence. A housekeeper discovered the damage four days later and alerted security. Michelle Obama was reportedly furious that her mother and daughter were home at the time, but nobody notified the first couple.

September 2014 – Army veteran Omar Gonzalez jumped the White House fence, passed security, entered the executive mansion, ran through the first floor and into the East Room before he was finally tackled by an off-duty Secret Service agent. “Gonzalez was carrying a knife, and also had two hatchets and a machete, as well as 800 rounds of ammunition in his vehicle nearby,” reports NBC News.

March 2015 – Two Secret Service agents were investigated for drinking and driving while operating an official vehicle, then crashing through a security barricade near the White House. The two agents had been celebrating beforehand at a colleague’s retirement party “where free drinks were available,” reports CBS News. One agent ended up retiring.

The Secret Service once fell under the umbrella of the Treasury Department, but was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003. Since then, agents have complained of underfunding and gross mismanagement.

In October 2014, Julia Pierson resigned as Secret Service director following the Omar Gonzalez incident.

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has kept a watchful eye on the agency as it has tried to rehabilitate itself internally and improve its bruised public image.

As chair of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Chaffetz held leaders’ feet to the fire on contentious issues and was met by a public leak of his failed application to become a Secret Service agent in the past. A later investigation revealed 45 Secret Service employees had accessed his file, reports Politico.

The most recent shooting incident on Friday will certainly be subject to further internal and external investigations.

Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @chanceseales

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