White House intruder's gun was empty
Fairfax resident, officer wounded by same bullet
By J. Jennings Moss
Federal authorities yesterday filed assault and firearms charges
against a Fairfax County man who jumped a White House fence
Tuesday night with an unloaded gun and was shot by a Secret
The same bullet that struck Leland William Modjeski, 37, in
the left arm hit another Secret Service officer, Scott
Giambattista, who tackled Mr. Modjeskj about 50 yards from the
White House's south entrance. Both men were in good condition.
Treasury Department officials did not release the name of the
uniformed officer who opened flre, but other sources identified
him as David Levine. Treasury officials said the officer shot
after seeing Mr. Modjeski's gun; his actions will be the subject
of a routine investigation.
The Secret Service had no record of Mr. Modjeski threatening
"There is no indication he tried to assassinate the president,"
a law enforcement source said. Officials said it may have been a
depressed man's attempt to commit suicide.
Mr. Clinton, who had gotten home from a speech about 30 minutes
before the 10:45 p.m. incident and was working in his office on
the second floor of the mansion, said he and his family were not
It was "just another day at the White House," spokesman Michael
McCurry quoted Mr. Clinton as saying. "The service did a great
job. They were right on it. They were terrific."
Mr. Clinton even went jogging yesterday morning at Fort McNair
for the first time this month.
Prosecutors said they found no criminal record for Mr. Modjeski.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Dubelier told federal Magistrate
Alan Kay that Mr. Modjeski should not be released from the
hospital until early next week.
The magiatrate scheduled the next hearing for Tuesday, when
lawyers will prepare for an arraignment later in the week.
Mr. Modjeski was charged with armed assault on a federal officer
and interstate transportation of a firearm, felonies with maximum
10-year prison terms. He broke federal firearms laws by taking
the revolver he kept at his home, near Falls Church, into the
The incident came four days after Mr. Clinton gave the order to
close Pennsylvania Avenue north of the White House as one of a
series of recommendations by a security review.
It was the latest in a string of security problems during the
Clinton presidency, including a small plane crashing on the White
House grounds and a man firing at the front of the mansion with a
David Douglass, a former federal prosecutor who served as the
security review's executive director, said he does not consider
Tuesday night's incident to be a true breach of security.
"People are going to jump the fence at the White House. The
question is, are they then apprehended before they can pose a
threat to the president, the first family and other protectees?
... I think the system does that," Mr. Douglass said. Four or
five people a year jump the fence to enter the White House
Mr. Modjeski chose a spot just south of the visitors' entrance
and about 15 feet north of the entrance that Mr. Clinton's
motorcade had used 30 minutes earlier.
Alarms went off when the man, dressed in a business suit, scaled
the 9-foot fence and landed on the ground, a federal law
enforcement official said. Officer Giambattista saw him "seconds"
after the jump, said the official, who asked not to be
Mr. Modjeski moved quickly toward the White House and ignored
Officer Giambattista's call to stop. The officer tackled him near
the First Lady's Garden, and the two men struggled.
"Another officer who had come upon the scene saw the struggle,
saw the weapon, yelled 'Weapon!' and then fired the shot," the
It was the only shot fired. Authorities discovered after taking
Mr. Modjeski into custody that his .38-caliber handgun was
Both wounded men were taken to George Washington University
Medical Center. Hospital officials said they expect the men to be
released in three to five days.
Doctors said the bullet struck Mr. Modjeski in a fleshy area of
his upper left arm, then struck Officer Giambattista in the left
elbow, shattered his upper forearm and lodged in his lower
Hospital spokesman Rich James said no one visited Mr. Modjeski
but an "immediate family member" called for him.
Officer Giambattista received visits from his wife and
colleagues. Mr. Clinton called him early in the day to thank him
for his work, Mr. McCurry said.
Mr. James said the intruder underwent surgery before the Secret
Service officer because Mr. Modjeski arrived at the hospital in
worse condition, with a ruptured artery.
Authorities may decide to file further charges of trespassing
and assault before trial, but prosecutors said the current
charges should be sufficient to hold Mr. Modjeski in jail after
his hospital release.
Federal officials said they were pleased with the Secret
Service's actions in the case.
"The system worked. It's 10:30 or so at night. It's relatively
dark. Somebody jumps the fence, and within 15 seconds they get
caught," said William T. Coleman Jr., transportation secretary in
the Ford administration and one of six members of the security
review's advisory committee.
Brian Blomquist contributed to this report.
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