Woman arrested after driving into White House barrier was convicted last year of trying to climb fence
WASHINGTON - A Tennessee woman who was convicted last year of trying to climb a White House barrier was arrested again Friday after authorities said she intentionally drove a vehicle into a metal barricade at the executive mansion.
D.C. police identified her as Jessica R. Ford, 35, of La Vergne, Tennessee, about 20 miles south of Nashville. She was in custody and charges were pending Friday night, authorities said.
The incident occurred about 3 p.m. The U.S. Secret Service said a woman driving a white van or SUV "intentionally drove" into the barrier.
A tourist visiting from New York, Christopher Bello, said that 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 that occurred or when.
Authorities said the vehicle did not get past the security post and no one was injured. The Secret Service said in a statement that its officers have "had previous encounters with the female in the vicinity of the White House resulting in numerous arrests for a variety of criminal violations."
Records filed in D.C. Superior Court show that Ford was arrested three times last year and charged with either unlawful entry or violating a judge's 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 occurred in April. A Secret Service officer questioned her in Lafayette Park, and she told him, according to an arrest affidavit, "I'm going to jump the fence." She then ran to the fence and tried to climb it before being arrested. She pleaded guilty to unlawful entry and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, all suspended, and put on a year's probation.
Ford's relatives could not be reached Friday. Her attorney in the April case, Winston J. Yallery-Arthur, declined to comment.
The incident prompted police to shut down several streets and plunged the White House into lockdown. Secret Service officers with long guns patrolled the perimeter and cleared Lafayette Park.
Bello, the tourist, had stopped in Washington 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."