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 Service officer.

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 President Clinton.

"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 in danger.

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 District.

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 semiautomatic rifle.

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 grounds.

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 identified.

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 official said.

It was the only shot fired. Authorities discovered after taking Mr. Modjeski into custody that his .38-caliber handgun was unloaded.

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 forearm.

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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