White House Has Not Been Impenetrable

Security Breached On Many Occasions

In the last 25 years, White House security has been breached on numerous occasions by intruders, who have tried crashing through the northwest gate, flying onto the grounds and scaling the fence around the complex. In 1991 alone, the Secret Service recorded seven "fence jumpers."

Despite those incursions, no president ever was injured. "The White House Complex has always been a relatively safe location for the president," noted a White House Security Review released yesterday.

According to that report, the various incidents include:

Feb. 17, 1974. Army Pvt. Robert Preston stole a helicopter from Fort Meade and flew to the White House, passing over it and hovering above the south grounds for several minutes. Although Preston touched down briefly near the West Wing, security did not shoot at his craft. Preston flew back toward Fort Meade, with Maryland State Police helicopters in pursuit, then returned to the White House. His helicopter was shot down on the south grounds.

Dec. 25, 1974. A man who said he was the messiah and had flares strapped to his body crashed his car through the northwest gate and drove up to the North Portico. Marshall Fields threatened to detonate the flares, which he said were explosives. He surrendered after about four hours of negotiations with officials.

July 27, 1976. A taxi driver named Chester Plummer climbed the fence carrying a three-foot metal pipe. As Plummer approached the White House, a security officer ordered him to halt. When Plummer refused and raised the pipe "in a threatening manner," the officer shot him in the chest. Plummer died a short time later.

Oct. 3, 1978. Clad in a white karate suit and carrying a Bible, Anthony Henry scaled the fence onto the north grounds; he hoped to persuade President Carter to delete "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency for religious reasons. When confronted by security, Henry pulled a knife from the Bible and slashed two officers. The knife was knocked away, and Henry was forced to the ground and arrested.

March 3, 1984. David Mahonski, who was under surveillance for threats against President Reagan, pulled a sawed-off shotgun as security officers approached him outside the fence along the White House's south grounds. He was shot in the arm and arrested.

Jan. 20, 1985. On the day that President Reagan was sworn in for a second term, a man entered the White House by walking in with the Marine Band. Robert Latta wandered the Executive Mansion for 15 minutes before he was discovered and arrested.

Sept. 12, 1994. In a Cessna stolen from Aidino Airport in Churchville, Md., an unlicensed pilot named Frank Eugene Corder flew to Washington, entering the prohibited airspace around the White House just before 2 a.m. after passing low over the Ellipse, he dove toward the White House and crashed on the lawn just south of the Executive Mansion. The plane skidded, struck a tree near the South Portico steps and hit a first-floor corner of the mansion. President Clinton and his family were not there at the time. Corder died in the crash.

Oct. 29, 1994. At least 29 shots from a semiautomatic rifle were fired at the White House by Francisco Martin Duran. A tourist video-taped Duran shooting as he ran down the south sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue. Three passersby tackled him as he tried to reload. Thirty rounds of live ammunition were found in Duran's coat pocket, and his pickup truck contained more ammunition, a shotgun and a hand written note saying, "Kill the Pres!"

No one was injured in the shooting. President Clinton was in the White House but was never in danger. Duran, who was convicted last month of attempted murder of the president, will be sentenced in June.

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