This story has been updated. A Tennessee woman who was convicted last year of trying to climb a White House barrier was arrested again Friday after authorities said she drove a vehicle into a barricade near the executive mansion and was found with a gun in her hand.
D.C. police identified her as Jessica R. Ford, 35, of La Vergne, Tenn., about 20 miles southeast of Nashville. Police said Friday night that she was charged with gun possession and other offences.
The U.S. Secret Service said a woman driving a white van or SUV “intentionally drove” into the barrier at 17th and E streets NW about 3 p.m.
A tourist visiting from New York, Christopher Bello, said it appeared as if the driver “was trying to break through the barrier” and that he thought “she started to hit the gas, and her tires were spinning and smoking.”
The Secret Service said Ford was quickly arrested and no shots were fired. The vehicle’s back window and one side window were shattered; it could not be determined how or when.
Authorities said the vehicle did not get past the security post, and no one was injured. The Secret Service said its officers have encountered the woman previously.
D.C. Superior Court records show three arrests for Ford last year on charges of either unlawful entry or violating a court order to stay away from the White House. She also received psychiatric counseling, the records show. Ford received a 90-day suspended jail sentence in one case, and another charge was dismissed.
The third incident was in April. A Secret Service officer questioned her in Lafayette Square, and she told him, according to an arrest affidavit, “I’m going to jump the fence.” She ran to the fence and tried to climb it.She was arrested, pleaded guilty to unlawful entry and sentenced to 30 days in jail, all suspended, and put on a year’s probation.
According to a police report she said “she had the ‘BB Gun’ because if James Burris was the President the officers would shoot her to protect him and that she knowingly brought the gun with her.” The police report said she held a pistol. It was not clear what type of gun she had.
Ford’s relatives could not be reached Friday. Her attorney in the April case, Winston J. Yallery-Arthur, declined to comment.
Secret Service officers with long guns patrolled the perimeter and cleared Lafayette Park.
Bello, the tourist, had stopped in the District on his way home from a trip to Disney World because his 5-year-old daughter wanted to see the White House. He said they heard the crash as they walked by the security post and then saw the vehicle spinning its wheels.
He said Secret Service officers with long guns burst from a security booth and ordered the driver to stop. “She didn’t stop,” Bello said. At that point, he said, other police officers ordered bystanders to run, and he didn’t see what happened next.
At first, he said, his daughter “didn’t realize what was going on. But when the Secret Service came out and said, ‘Run, run, run,’ she got scared and started to cry.”
Martin Weil, Jenna Johnson, Shira Stein, Clarence Williams and Lauren Lumpkin contributed to this report.