He served as a sniper in Iraq, his family said, serving three tours in a war-torn country.
He was discharged in 2012, and was divorced that same year.
He reportedly suffers from post-traumatic stress.
He thought “the atmosphere was collapsing and needed to get the information to the president of the United States so that he could get the word out to the people,” prosecutors said.
For Omar J. Gonzalez, the homeless 42-year-old veteran charged with trespassing and carrying a deadly weapon after jumping the White House fence, things had gone wrong.
“Omar is a good guy; he’s just got some issues that he needs help with,” said Samantha Bell, his ex-wife, told the Associated Press. “I think this is a cry out for help, what he’s done.”
Bell said Gonzalez began toting a .45 at all times. He watched her sleep. He was paranoid.
His neighbors in Copperas Cove, Tex., noticed.
“At the end, he got so weird,” Elke Warner, a former neighbor, said. “He had motion detector lights put in.”
Another former neighbor, identified by KXXV only as “Andrew”: “He’s always check on people. From time-to-time when I’d talk to him, he told me that he thought people were watching him or his phone was tapped or someone tapped his house. … I’ve heard rumors of him walking out with guns strapped to him, walking around in his yard.”
His family saw changes too.
“He’s been depressed for quite some time,” one relative, who was not named, told the Los Angeles Times. “He’d been taking antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. I suspect he stopped taking it, otherwise this wouldn’t have happened.”
The relative said Gonzalez had been injured by a homemade explosive device in Baghdad.
“A portion of his foot was amputated,” he said, “and the evidence is the limp you see in the video of him running across the White House lawn.”
Others spoke of his arsenal.
“I know he’s got heavy artillery, you know?” Jerry Murphy, whose mother was married to Gonzalez, told the Associated Press. “He’s got all kinds of weapons and he was trained to use them. I believe if he wanted to make a scene or cause problems, he very well could have. But it’s clear that he didn’t.”
Murphy said Gonzalez had been living out of his truck, driving around the country — and carrying a knife.
“He was the kind of person everyone liked,” Rainie Murphy-Gandy, 24, of Midland — Jerry Murphy’s sister, who lived with her mother and Gonzalez when he was based at Fort Hood, told the Associated Press. “He just started going downhill.”
In court, Gonzalez’s attorney tried to focus on his sacrifice.
“This is someone who has provided service to his country and shown commitment in his life,” Assistant Public Defender Margarita O’Donnell said.