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Accused White House shooter ordered held

Handout image of White House shooting suspect Oscar Ortega-Hernandez
Handout image of White House shooting suspect Oscar Ortega-Hernandez

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Monday found sufficient evidence that an Idaho man allegedly opened fire on the White House on a late November evening in a bid to assassinate President Barack Obama, ordering that he be held pending an indictment and questioning whether he may have a "Messianic complex".

Oscar Ortega-Hernandez, 21, has been charged with trying to kill the president when he allegedly opened fire on the executive mansion with a Romanian-made semi-automatic weapon on November 11. Obama was in California at the time.

After a lengthy hearing going through the evidence in the case, U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola found that there was probable cause that Ortega-Hernandez had committed the crime and ordered him held pending a grand jury review.

Prosecutors have said that Ortega-Hernandez referred to himself as a modern day Jesus Christ and was "chosen" to "take care of" Obama, which led Facciola to question whether the defendant had a "Messianic complex".

Ortega-Hernandez's vehicle was found several blocks from the White House abandoned and with the AK-47-style firearm in the front seat. Several bullets from the assault rifle hit the upper floors of the White House mansion where Obama's and his family's private quarters are located.

His defense attorney raised the possibility that the shooting had nothing to do with the White House but rather a dispute with someone in a yellow truck. They also said no one had positively identified Ortega-Hernandez as the gunman.

He allegedly told authorities that he had been robbed of his car earlier in the day and whoever did that was responsible for the shooting, according to court papers.

Prosecutors showed photographs from surveillance video at a Walmart store that they said was Ortega-Hernandez hours after the apparent robbery took place, a bid to discredit his version of events.

FBI agent Michael Pinto said during the hearing that 12 spent bullet shells were recovered in Ortega-Hernandez's car and that no one else's fingerprints were found in the car. Two bullets and a bullet jacket recovered from the White House were matched to his rifle.

A doctor has determined that Ortega-Hernandez is competent to stand trial despite concerns about his past statements. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.

(Reporting By Jeremy Pelofsky; editing by Anthony Boadle)

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