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Australian in Capitol Standoff Also Went to the White House

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 14, 2005; Page B02

The Australian man who waged a standoff with police at the U.S. Capitol on Monday went to the White House last weekend and asked to meet President Bush, authorities said yesterday.

Wenhao Zhao, 33, showed up Saturday at the White House and asked Secret Service officers whether he could speak to Bush, authorities said. The officers and other investigators spoke to Zhao and turned him away, according to federal law enforcement officials.

Wenhao Zhao stands near the Capitol with two suitcases as police prepare to rush him in Monday's incident. He will be flown back to Australia today. (Jason Reed -- Reuters)

The new details emerged yesterday as authorities were preparing to expel Zhao from the United States for violating terms of his visit to the country. Zhao, who did not contest the deportation, will be flown to Australia today, authorities said.

Zhao also asked to meet with the president during the episode at the Capitol, authorities said. That incident began about 12:40 p.m., after Zhao rolled two suitcases to a fountain on the west side of the Capitol.

An officer approached Zhao and tried to ask him some questions, but he was not cooperative, police have said. Worried that Zhao might be a suicide bomber, the officer called for help, police have said.

An hour later, heavily armed officers tackled Zhao. Police X-rayed the suitcases and blew one bag apart with an explosive blast. Neither of the bags turned out to contain explosives, police said.

No charges were filed in the incident, which triggered a massive police response and shut down some streets and tours of the Capitol for three hours.

Zhao spent only a short time in the United States. He arrived in Los Angeles on Friday, saying he was a tourist, and continued to Dulles International Airport that day or Saturday morning, officials said. Federal agents said they have not been able to confirm whether he stayed in any area hotels or motels.

Secret Service officials released few details about Zhao's attempt to see Bush on Saturday. Laurie Lewis, a Secret Service spokeswoman, confirmed his appearance at the White House, which was first reported by Australian news media in today's editions.

"We have had contact with him and sent him on his way," Lewis said. She declined to say whether the Secret Service followed up on the encounter, adding, "The Secret Service does not comment on our conversations with individuals."

Police initially said they would charge Zhao with disorderly conduct in Monday's incident. They later decided that he might have mental problems and sent him to a hospital for observation. Doctors evaluated Zhao but did not admit him, police said.

U.S. Capitol Police then turned him over to immigration authorities for expulsion proceedings. Zhao was held at an immigration center in Washington pending his removal.

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